do we offer enough sick leave, I’m in HR and an employee asked me out, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Do we offer enough sick leave?

My husband and I work at a growing family company that has expanded from the two of us in 2020 to now seven employees. As we’ve grown, I’ve become the default HR director and I’m learning as I go. I am facing a situation where I have employees using a lot more sick time this year than I have ever paid out in the past.

When you begin working at our office, you are allotted two weeks vacation and one week of sick time. You must earn it over the 12 months of the year. I have two employees already in the negative and they won’t catch up until they start earning sick time for the next calendar year. They both just began this summer. The sick time excuses do not seem out of line, but I struggle what to do about pay with them both being in the negative.

Do I need to adjust my policy upwards and allow for 10 days a year sick time? I’m not necessarily against it. I do feel like we give a lot of other “free time” that isn’t allocated in these vacation times. We get 13 holidays a year and only work skeleton crew (one person per day) the week of 4th of July and between Christmas and New Years. We also close two hours early on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

That amount of sick time is very low! (The average for full-time positions in the U.S. is eight sick days a year.) And your vacation time is on the low side too.  While you do provide other great benefits, none of those help people who need more than five sick days a year — which is a lot of people. For example, anyone who gets Covid or a bad flu will knock out their full allotment of sick leave in one go and have none left for anything else. And people with kids or chronic illnesses will be very poorly served by that policy; they’ll end up using vacation time for sick days and not being able to take actual vacation. I’d say at a minimum you should double your sick leave.

2. Working with a bad employee who you’ve been told to let fail

Almost two years ago, my partner was promoted to team project lead at a large tech company. He was still relatively new, but was promoted quickly because he works well with people. Around the same time, an engineer was assigned to his team who was brand new to the company and fell through the cracks in terms of training and mentorship. My partner only handles the technical aspect of the team, while other folks handle the people management, but my partner found himself spending 3-4 hours every few days helping this new engineer get up to speed. This even included explaining how to cut and paste (they work for a major tech company and both hold PhDs). After two years, he is still not up to speed, despite my partner spending a great deal of time and effort training him. He routinely makes very basic mistakes and seemingly doesn’t know how much of their tech operates.

Once it became clear that there were larger issues with this engineer, my partner brought it up to their boss and his grandboss. One year later, nothing has changed. My partner is completely burnt out and feels that he spends most of his energy managing this one team member (which he shouldn’t even be doing, he’s the technical lead). He went from excited to do work to absolutely dreading it. He’s asked to be moved several times, but he’s the sole person on many projects and has been told he’s “too critical” to move. Their manager directed him to let the crappy engineer fail, but this would mean delays in production and damage to the team’s reputation to both internal and external stakeholders.

I understand resources are limited, managers have a lot on their plates, and my partner is definitely taking work very personally, but is there reasonable recourse for something like this?

He should take his manager’s advice to let the engineer fail. There’s a good chance his manager is saying that because that’s the only way she can take action (things shouldn’t work that way but sometimes do). In any case, he brought the problem to his manager, she told him how to handle it, and he’s ignoring the solution she gave him. The answer is to follow her instructions!

I get being concerned that it will cause delays in production and damage the team’s reputation, but sometimes that’s the only way this stuff gets addressed, and it doesn’t make sense for him to be more worried about those potential consequences than his manager is. If he wants, he could go back to her one more time and say, “I’m preparing to take your advice and that means XYZ will happen — so I just want to confirm that’s how you want me to proceed.” But after that he should do what she suggested.

3. I’m in HR and an employee asked me out

I’m in HR and an employee asked me on a date. I politely declined, but now I’m wondering if I need to tell my supervisor about it. I don’t have any concerns about sexual harassment or our ability to continue a professional relationship. But because I’m involved in processing this person’s checks and approving their time off and so forth, I’m a little worried that this could turn into a problem if I don’t mention it and it comes up again later (for example, in the form of a complaint from the employee about some other issue that they feel is related to it). At the same time, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me and my preference would be to just forget it and move on.

Should I mention it to my supervisor to be on the safe side, or does it even matter if it’s not related to a current employment issue?

Err on the safe side and mention it so that if it does turn into a problem later, your manager will already have the context. Give her the same caveats you gave here — you don’t feel harassed and have no concerns about your ability to continue a professional relationship — but explain that you’re raising it just in case anything does happen because of it down the road.

4. “How do you do”

I was taught that, when meeting someone new, it’s correct to say, “How do you do.” But no one says that anymore, and I don’t want to come across as an Old when meeting interviewers, especially since I’m over 40. So do I turn my back on Miss Manners’ teachings and say “Nice to meet you”?

Yes. Even Miss Manners seems to accept that “nice to meet you” has mostly replaced “how do you do.”

{ 656 comments… read them below }

  1. Minneapolis nonprofit*

    I’m 40 and I’ve never heard anyone say how do you do in real life. The only thing that jumps to my mind is that scene in My Fair Lady!

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Yeah, as a West Coaster, this is also alien to me, and sent me down quite the rabbit hole! Apparently conventions are different in England vs US (and even regionally within US, if we can believe Quora). In England it’s often a statement that needs no reply; in Southern US it’s broadly something you tack onto an introduction (like “nice to meet you”); and in the North East, it’s a question one actually answers. Fascinating!

      Source links to come in a reply.

        1. Jackalope*

          Don’t know if anyone else caught this, but in the Miss Manners link above the person writing in was French and complained about people using the word “enchanté(e)” when meeting someone new. They also said that it’s especially inappropriate for a woman to say to a man that she’s enchantée when meeting him because that implies pleasure in meeting him. And that’s… mumble mumble maybe sexual or something? I have used that word so many times when I’m in France, and have had so many people respond with it (that’s how I learned it in fact, was going around my church having people I was just meeting say it to me). It’s so weird to me that someone would say it’s inappropriate! But I’m not French, so… wondering if anyone else who speaks French has any insights?

          1. WinterFalls*

            I’m not French but have spent plenty of time there and have many friends who are, and I think that person writing in was either not actually French but pretending, or a significantly weird outlier. Enchanté/enchantée are very common greetings and quite casual greetings, and do not carry those connotations the letter writer implies.

            1. Eff Walsingham*

              I was also surprised by the ‘French’ person in the article referenced saying that there’s nothing except “bonjour” and “enchantee”. (I am Canadian, not from Quebec, but educated partly in French-speaking communities.) I was taught to say, “Comment ca va?” or, more formally, “Comment allez-vous?” when meeting someone. (Sorry, I cannot use the proper accents on this device.)

              “Comment ca va?” is basically “How’s it going?” and one of the possible replies amounts to, “It’s going.” And I appreciate the ability to not commit to “It’s going well” or “It’s going poorly.”

          2. EmF*

            It’s a thing here in Quebec! A bit formal (at a party I’d probably just go with “salut, ça va?” when introduced to someone) but “enchanté” is definitely something I’ve used with people I did not want to flirt with and had used with me by people who I really, really hope weren’t flirting.

            1. MrsF*

              I’d <> someone, but not in a business setting, unless we’d worked reasonably closely before. First time greeting in a professional setting would be either <> and in response to their name <>.

              Also, hello fellow Québécois(e)!

          3. Coffee Cup*

            I speak French (as a second language but I live and work in a French-speaking country) and it is a very normal thing to say that isn’t remotely sexual. I am baffled to hear this.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I’m British and have never heard another British person say “how do you do” in real life. I suspect the only people who are still saying it are elderly posh people and anyone fresh out of finishing school. It seems very outdated to me.

        1. stratospherica*

          Same. I think I’ve only heard it in period dramas. I didn’t even know that it played the same social role as “nice to meet you”

          1. Myrin*

            As a fluent bot not native English speaker, this is the first I’ve heard of this expression’s “function” and I’m fascinated by it – I would’ve thought it’s equivalent to “How are you?” (given that it’s, well, almost the exact same wording), not “Nice to meet you”!

            1. stratospherica*

              I had the same impression as you – maybe I could see it as an emphatic expression to greet someone (similar to the UK expression “Y’alright?” or “how’s it going?”) but not as “nice to meet you”!

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I assumed the “nice to meet you” bit was just because this letter is focused on interviews specifically where they will be meeting people, not because that is its exclusive situational use.

            2. Allonge*

              We learnt about it in school when we started learning English (~30 years ago).

              There was actually a point made on the difference with how are you, in the sense that neither required a genuine answer (this is a cultural difference from ours, the first instance of culture shock for a lot of us), but ‘how do you do’ gets a ‘how do you do’ and ‘how are you’ gets a ‘fine, thanks, how are you’ response.

              But since then, I read it in books like The Railway Children and others obviously a bit out of date on social norms.

            3. Emmy Noether*

              Same! Apparently it’s sufficiently outated that it isn’t taught to people learning English at school in non-English-speaking countries either (foreign language teaching tends to be a step or two behind).

              For some reason, the only example of it that comes to my mind is in Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue (“my name is Sue. How do you do! Now you gon’ die!”). Which I guess actually is that use, but I’ve never thought about it – I just thought it was there for the rhyme.

              1. Autie*

                My mind jumped to The Rocky Horror Picture Show ‘How d’you do I … see you’ve met my … faithful handyman’. I’m British and Frank’n’Furter is the only person I can think of who uses it

                1. Calpurrnia*

                  And my mind went to the Roxette song “How Do You Do”… where the next line is “the things that you do”, so it’s not even the same sentiment as the greeting, but it’s the first association I have with the phrase!

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Cyril Proudbottom from the Wind in the Willows. “How do you do? How do you do? How *do* you *do*?”

                  I guess followed by Grumpy Dwarf: “How do you do *what*?”

                  From my US PoV, the impression “How do you do?” imparts is a mix of old-fashionedness, eccentricity, and a layer of “by the book even when I don’t understand why.” But Programming seems to court personalities (myself included), so YMMV.

                3. Relentlessly Socratic*

                  Yes to the RHPS reference

                  Also–I see “how do you do?” and automatically hear it as “how-dee doodly-do!” and know that I am not to be trusted in polite company.

            4. Sharpie*

              I’m British, and I have never heard ‘how do you do’ in real life. In period dramas and historical fiction, yes, but nobody says that in their normal everyday lives. ‘Nice to meet you’ is perfectly polite when being introduced, or ‘how are you’ (‘fine, thanks, you?’) are the usual things people say today.

            5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              “How do you do?” is what you should say to someone the first time you meet them, and the correct answer is “How do you do?”, after which you carry on as you want. It’s ridiculous. I knew this but even so the one time someone said it to me, I got all flustered and said something stupid. “Nice to meet you” is much more logical and natural.

              1. LW4*

                LW4 here. @rebel… : With respect, “Nice to meet you” is no more natural l than any other social nicety (“How do you do” felt just as natural to earlier generations as “Nice to meet you” feels to younger ones), nor is it logical (or less illogical) — you can’t actually know, when meeting someone for the 1st time, whether it *is* nice to meet that person.

                Case in point: Many years ago I worked as an office temp in a medical clinic; when introduced to the head of the clinic, I said, “It’s nice to meet you.” He looked at me somberly and replied, “Thank you.”

                Yes, he had a massive ego. And he was committing Medicaid fraud. And another employee whistle-blew on him and he was found guilty, yet the Big, Prestigious hospital he worked for did NOT can him. So meeting him, and working for him, was not a nice or good experience.

                1. daffodil*

                  except “how do you do” is not grammatical in contemporary english. I understand that all social niceties are functional rather than meaningful, but to that end nobody thinks “nice to meet you” is a judgment. It is polite to imply that someone is worth meeting. Maybe you don’t actually wish someone will “have a nice day” either but it’s not, like, perjury.

            6. LW4*

              LW4 here. Myrin, “How are you?” is an acceptable thing to say to someone you already know (colleague, friend, relative) but not to a strange — it could be understood as intrusive.

              Also, “How are you?” wouldn’t work as a greeting to one of those familiar people; one would say “Hi” or “Hello” or even “Hey” — but “How are you?” or “How are things going?” would be a follow-up question, especially to someone the speaker hasn’t seen for a while.

              1. Ophelia*

                I think in context, though, “how are you” is understood to mean either “I know you well, and genuinely want to know how you are doing” OR “I am just meeting you and expect your answer to be “fine, thanks” regardless of what is actually happening.” I don’t think it’s unusual for language to be nuanced like this, and just sort of…how things evolve over time.

            1. Clisby*

              I’m 70 in the southern US, and I still hear “How do you do?” used to greet someone you’re meeting for the first time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it to greet someone they already know. That would be more like “How’s it going?” or “How ya doing?”

            2. The OG Sleepless*

              Interesting! I’m in my mid 50s in the Southern US and I have never said it, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it outside of period dramas. I think my parents said “nice meeting you” and I don’t remember what my grandparents said.

              1. Clisby*

                To be more precise, it’s what I’ve heard (and continue to hear) in a more formal setting. I would not expect people being introduced at a party to say it, unless maybe you had been invited to a party with the pope or the president.

            3. KatCardigans*

              I also use it when first meeting people (early 30s, Southeast US)—not always, but often enough. It seems very normal to me? Nobody’s ever reacted weirdly to it.

        2. JubJubTheIguana*

          I’m British and hear it/say it whenever meeting someone new. It’s still pretty standard where I am. I’m in my early 40s.

          1. londonedit*

            Yes, same. Early 40s, southern English, middle/upper-middle class upbringing, and I say ‘how do you do’ when I’m meeting someone new in a formal situation (like a business meeting). It’s not a literal question, it’s along the same lines as ‘nice to meet you’, and the response is ‘how do you do’ back, or some people will say ‘nice to meet you’ in response too. I tend to use ‘nice to meet you’ at the end of the meeting, as in ‘it was nice to meet you, thank you for coming in’.

            1. Pippa K*

              Same, and I had no idea how many people had never encountered this at all! It seems part of the ordinary collection of stock phrases for business or semi-formal interactions. (Although maybe we should all switch to the Woosterian “What ho!” mentioned by Charlotte Lucas below :)

        3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          I was told by a posh person in 1998 when we were both in our early twenties that saying anything other than “how do you do” in response to “how do you do” would irrevocably brand me as non-U (this is UK obviously). I have made a point of not hanging out with posh Brits since then so don’t know if this has changed. (“Posh” here = public school, Oxbridge, possibly related to an earl.)

          1. SarahKay*

            And for further context: public school in the UK = posher and both more expensive and more exclusive than the average private school in the UK.
            State schools are free and the equivalent of a US public school.

          2. The Prettiest Curse*

            The suggested response seems like a good way to get stuck in a bizarre British politeness spiral where you both keep saying “how do you do” to each other endlessly until one of you finally cracks and says something else.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Now all I can think of is when Bertie Wooster and another young man say, “What ho!” to each other multiple times each, then lapse into silence as they have nothing more to say.

              I’m from the US Midwest (middle/working class upbringing). I’ve only heard people using it jokingly or ironically. (Aside from books, TV, and movies

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              You can break out of that loop by the ‘sorry’ line break but, as our Canadian cousins can attest to, that gets you in a whole different loop.

        4. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Yup – when I was a child in Seventies UK, I did hear it on and off. By the time the Eighties rolled around it had become extinct.

          PS I was told the reply was ‘how do you do’.

      2. Sophie K*

        Yeah I’m from the South and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say how do you do. I have noticed that older people, especially men for some reason, tend to say “good to see you” even if they’ve never met you before which always struck me as odd.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “Good to see you” is often recommended for situations where you might have been introduced to the person in the past but aren’t sure, and you don’t want to inadvertently offend them by not remembering them if so. I’ve noticed a lot of people in high-profile positions use it, almost definitely for that reason.

          1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

            I also sometimes use it for the inverse — I remember meeting someone, but they don’t seem to remember me or I’m not sure if they’d know who I am out of context. I don’t want to say “nice to meet you,” since we’ve already met, but depending on the circumstance, may or may not add the “good to see you *again*”.

          2. Phyllis Refrigeration*

            I do this at conferences! I can’t recall if I’ve met the million and one people here. So I say it just in case, especially since we would have corresponded already so they aren’t strangers.

        2. PhyllisB*

          Southern here, and around here we usually say nice to meet you. I have had someone respond “good to know you” which sounds odd to me because how can you “know” someone you just met for the first time? But I just classify it like how are you? Don’t take it literally and move on.

      3. Sally*

        I live in the northeast, and I’ve never heard anyone say “how do you do,” and I’ve never heard anyone answer it as if it were a question. I just started using “perhaps” instead of “maybe” at work, and so far no one has seemed to notice, so I think I could probably get away with saying “how do you do,” but I don’t want to be perceived as old fashioned (or as a weirder weirdo than I already am).

        1. ecnaseener*

          Same, have never heard it used in the northeast. If I did, it definitely wouldn’t occur to me to take it as a literal question to answer. (I would probably sputter in confusion for a second before deciding to just say “very nice to meet you.”) Maybe that source got mixed up with “how are you?” which I guess northeasteners could be more likely to answer honestly than other folks?

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Same here in the northwest; I would know it wasn’t a question and not to answer it, but I haven’t actually ever heard anyone use it outside of an old book. Depending on accent, and if it sounded habitually blended, you could probably get away with using it here, but if you used the stilted formal version of black and white films, it might come across a bit oddly.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          Also in the northeast US, also want to start using it! Because I am a “how’s it going” (with no response expected) kind of person now, so “how do you do” with no question mark is even better for that.

        4. Turquoisecow*

          Also from the northeast and I don’t recall ever hearing it in person. If someone said it to me I would probably just say “hello” or “nice to meet you,” in response, it’s one of those extremely formal and stuffy things I’d feel silly saying myself.

        5. Happy**

          Well, now I’m baffled as to in what context the use of the word “perhaps” is at all noteworthy.

        1. LW4*

          From Miss Manners on uexpress, 9-8-16:

          The origin of the word “Howdy” (with alternate spellings, such as “howedye” or “how d’ee”) dates from the 16th century in southern England. As Miss Manners recalls, it was used, as American Southerners do now, to morph the greeting, “How do you do?” into a colloquial contraction.

        2. Mynona*

          This etymology makes sense to me. I use “how do you do” as a more casual greeting than “nice to meet you.” And the way I say it is more collapsed and run-together, like halfway to “howdy-do.” I’m from Louisiana, and I know I absorbed some archaic Southernisms from my grandmother.

      4. Umami*

        ‘in the North East, it’s a question one actually answers’

        Yes, this. In fact, it’s not really even a question, just a statement, which is why ‘Nice to meet you’ is probably the closest equivalent. I remember learning it, but functionally have not ever actually used it in this century. But I also lived on the Texas/Mexico border for a long time, so I tend to say ‘Pleasure to meet you’ instead.

        1. Tally miss*

          Late 50s and grew up outside Philadelphia 8n a lower middle class area and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard ‘How do you do’ in real life. ‘Nice to meet you’ or ‘Yo, what’s up’ seem more normal.

    2. Martn Blackwood*

      Literally the only reason i know “how do you do” is polite and “nice to meet you”/any other reply is “rude” is because like, a month ago, I was reading an Emily post manners book from 1920!

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        But what did she think of, “Charmed, I’m sure”? (This whole thing seems so bizarre to me, since, “It’s nice to meet you,” seems like literally the best thing you could say to someone you’ve just been introduced to.)

        1. stratospherica*

          I’m kind of shocked that people consider it rude on account of “you don’t know if it actually is nice to meet me”! Assuming that knowing you is a good thing is… a very kind and polite thing to do lol

          1. Martn Blackwood*

            The books on project Gutenberg, if you want to read it. Iirc it was kind of a class thing. If you were of “good breeding” you’d know to say “how did you do,” “nice to meet you” was the fake well bred version. There were a few of these in the first chapter or two. Of course, this is the same book that has a whol chapter on visiting cards. Remember? When fancy people would drop off a card with their name on it with your bulter as a sign of….friendship?

            1. LW4*

              @Martin: But do you know the language of those calling card? Bending a corner conveyed a meaning — four corners, four different meanings! Fascinating, I think.

              From Miss Manners, 1-11-09:

              “The sentiment once conveyed directly [by paying a brief visit to someone] was reduced to the symbol of the bent card edge: The upper left indicated that you were just paying a visit, the upper right that you offered congratulations, the lower right that you offered condolences and the lower left that you were taking leave.”

        2. infopubs*

          In my family, “Charmed, I’m sure” is considered sarcastic, similar to “Bless your heart.” But we aren’t southern, so this isn’t standard usage.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Now I’m thinking about the chorus girl who says “Mutual, I’m sure” in White Christmas. That’s supposed to be the response to “A pleasure to meet you” or something, but Mr. Wallace has not actually indicated that it is a pleasure to meet her.

            1. Miss Muffet*

              I also went straight to this! My kids and I love to quote that “mutual, I’m sure” in her funny voice. Love that movie. Glad it’s the season for watching it!!

            2. Misty*

              I think it is in White Christmas when someone is not greeted they said “Without so much as a ‘by your leave’ or ‘have an apple’ “. Or is that a different movie?

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        I answered this with “Fine, thank you; and you?” while on internship in the House of Commons and got a long lecture from the MP’s assistant about how a sigh and “as well as can be expected” were the ONLY polite response to that question. I (an American) was horrified by that idea, as here that would prompt a million follow-ups about my health and whether I was sure I was okay and did I need anything.

    3. John Smith*

      Also once said in the comedy series Mrs Brown’s Boys. A few alternatives (UK):
      Nice to meet you
      A pleasure
      Well met (now mostly defunct and far too posh)
      A’reet (Northern English for “all right”)
      How do? (Northern English, a shortened version of “How do you do”)
      How’s it going/hanging? (the latter debatable as to potential sexual context)
      What do you do / where are you from ((c) The Queen (Elizabeth) who apparently never used a greeting or said goodbye)
      Hello / Hi / Hiya (add a few As to Hiya to camp it up)

      There’s plenty more informal ones but Good/Nice to meet you should see you through almost any occasion.

      1. bamcheeks*

        “How do” is a general greeting for someone you already know, though. “How do you do” is purely for someone you’ve just been introduced to.

      2. IndigoHippo*

        (Another UK dweller) I say ‘pleased to meet you’ rather than nice because I have an irrational hatred of nice in general and ‘nice to meet you’ in particular. To me it sounds more formal somehow without being as wildly old fashioned as ‘how do you do’ which I find people just mishear anyway and reply ‘fine thanks’ which isn’t how that’s supposedly meant to go. I haven’t really heard ‘how do you do’ much in professional contexts, I’m in academia though and very old (fashioned) dons both American and English will occasionally use it. I certainly heard it from the older dons at (insert posh university) when I was a student. I’m in my early 30s so that wasn’t aeons ago! But academia is weird AF especially in my old fashioned humanities field and not really representative of the world outside.

      3. Cute As Cymraeg*

        In (south) Wales it’s “Alrigh’?”

        This is NOT, I repeat NOT, asking how you are. It’s just a greeting, and the appropriate response is to repeat it back.

        1. bamcheeks*

          My partner is from Ireland, and about a year after we’d moved to Yorkshire she suddenly came home one day and said, “‘I’ve just realised! “You all right” is just a greeting! It doesn’t mean, “wow, you look dreadful, are you ok?”’

          She’d spent a year thinking, why does everyone keep asking me if I’m all right, what’s wrong with my face.

          1. Libellulebelle*

            I (an American) studied abroad at the University of York, and had the exact same experience: Y’alright? Yes, I’m fine, do I look ill or something?

            As I recall, it took me a month or so to figure out it was a greeting.

            1. Aunt Vixen*


              When I was in the UK people would greet me (an American) with “[you] all right?” – which I understood to mean “are you okay?” And conversely, I would greet them with a friendly “what’s up?” – which they understood to mean “what’s wrong?” That’s a particularly insidious separated-by-a-common-language example, way more frustrating than your housemates thinking it’s adorable that you say “dish soap” when they say “washing-up liquid.”

          2. N.J.*

            My current grand boss (eastern United States, Appalachia), says “you all right” every time we cross paths. Thus thread has finally confirmed for me that this is probably a phrase he uses for greetings. I’ve currently been thinking that I must look sick, tired, or that my RBF is showing!

          3. alienor*

            I used to work with someone from the north of England, so I was used to the “you all right” greeting (they were a person of few words, so often we’d just pass each other in the office and say “all right?” “all right” to each other). But then I met someone from London who actually did say “are you ok” when we were introduced, and that one threw me! Yes, I’m ok…or am I? Now I’m not sure!

          4. Flor*

            My husband is Scottish and when I first met his family one of the important things he explained to me was that if his sister said, “All right?” to me, the correct response was, “All right?” and not some explanation of how I was, in fact, perfectly fine.

      4. MicroManagered*

        Whenever I hear or see “well met” in a book or movie, I always wish we could start saying it again.

        It’s not a question. It doesn’t imply that you are pleased to meet someone who maybe you aren’t pleased to meet or maybe you won’t like when you get to know them.

        To me it means: We met. And we did it well – the end. LOL

    4. Alla y’all*

      For me it’s the Tweedle’s song in Alice In Wonderland.

      “How do you do and shake hands, shake hands, shake hands. How do you do and shake hands and state your name and business.”

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’ve had that stuck in my head now ever since opening AAM this morning.
        Now I don’t live in an English-speaking country so there’s a lot of English things I’ve never heard IRL but I can confidently say that I’ve never even read “how do you do” anywhere and the only reason I know of its existence at all is the song.

    5. RC*

      There’s also the Steve Buscemi 30 Rock meme of “how do you do, fellow kids.” Which… is not an argument that it’s a modern greeting lol.

    6. Howdy*

      My lovely Nova Scotia grandfather used to say “how do?” and I have a fondness for that. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else say any iteration of “how do you do” outside of old movies.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        “How do?” (or more accurately “‘ow do?”) always seems essentially Yorkshire to me, so it’s interesting to hear that the expression made it to Canada too! That variant on the expression always seems more like an actual question to me, though.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Americans eventually turned it into “howdy!” which manages to be more fun and less formal than the original.

          1. Expelliarmus*

            Plus it seems less weird to respond to a “Howdy!” with “Howdy!”, as opposed to responding to “how do you do” with “how do you do” IMO

        2. pandop*

          Yeah, I don’t say the full phrase, although I am aware of it, but ‘ow do?’ is pretty common in my part of Yorkshire still.

      2. bishbah*

        I was about to reply that “howdy” is a form of “how do you do” and that gets used all the time in Texas, but then I saw your username…

    7. Posilutely*

      I’m English, nearly 40, married to someone posh and live in an old-money type affluent area and I’ve never heard anyone say it either. I assume these days it’s reserved for the ‘British’ person in terrible Netflix rom-coms!

    8. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m in my thirties, but my grandparents who are from a Northern European country and learned English as a second language always used to say it.

      I think they were taught in a fairly formal UK style, they used a lot of British words.

      I always found it very charming from them.

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      More generally, it is surprisingly common for people to get hung up on the exact formulation of conventional polite phrases. So we see letters to Miss Manners complaining about how writer is enraged by the whippersnapper at the supermarket checkout using a non-approved (by the writer) polite formula. Life is too short for this nonsense.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, exactly! My mother will sometimes write letters to customer service departments about this type of thing, even though I’ve told her that (other than making her feel that she has vanquished the dragon of bad manners) it’s almost totally pointless.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It is potentially worse than pointless. If the company has a stupid policy that any complaint is counted against the employee, then that letter can actively harm an innocent employee just doing their job.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And if it makes it to a high enough level of management, “solving” the problem might end up taking time away from real issues affecting customers. (Yes, I have seen this happen.)

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              This is how retail workers end up with scripts for any possible customer interaction. This is horrible for both the worker and those customers who would prefer to have a human interaction. And the scripts don’t actually solve the “problem,” as the potential complainers don’t all want the same script.

          2. The Prettiest Curse*

            Luckily, she isn’t usually good enough on details to mention specific employee names or dates (“recently” is as specific as she gets), so hopefully that means they can’t investigate as easily. She will also sometimes write in when an employee is particularly helpful to her, so I think it balances out a bit. But yeah, if your retirement hobby is making minor complaints about over-worked retail employees, you do need to find something better to do!

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        I loathe it when people rage about being told “No problem/not a problem” rather than “You’re welcome.” I can’t imagine such hate about being informed that they were a delight to assist and that it was actually no burden to do so, except that with such a complaint perhaps they do intend to be a burden on others.

        1. Parakeet*

          It’s very weird – honestly, “No problem” is what automatically comes out of my mouth, and I’ve long since aged out of being a young whippersnapper. I don’t know where or when I picked it up; it’s just a normal phrase to me. If it weren’t for the Internet/cranks writing into etiquette columns, I wouldn’t know anyone had a problem with it.

    10. Needs Coffee*

      I think I say it. Which sounds odd, I know. I assume it’s a formula I picked up from my grandmother. But the “mouth feel” is that of something I say, and it feels like a “shake hands with somebody at a conference I’m meeting for the first time, when neither of us will ever remember a 30 second meeting again” type of thing.

      It’s also a New England slurring of “How’d’ya do?” versus a post-Higgens Eliza Doolittle “How DO you do?”

      1. Bluenoser*

        Yes, I’m from East Coast Canada and while I haven’t heard it a lot, it’s not totally unfamiliar. Definitely ‘how d’ya do’ with the emphasis on how and do and the middle smooshed together, though. I’ve only heard ‘how Doo you dooo’ in period dramas. I also wouldn’t call it a posh greeting, at least with the smoosh, although it is a step up from your traditional ‘how’s she goin’, buddy?’

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          Indeed I think it’s highly regional. Very much the same–I’ve heard it, not frequently, but not so unusual to be noteworthy. But I work in an environment that tends to be not only conservative but features lots of Maritimers, so it may be that.

        2. Eff Walsingham*

          My Mum was a reasonably formal and reserved Maritimer, especially when meeting new people. I’ve been sitting here trying to think of what *I* say when being introduced, and it’s surprisingly difficult. I think I just head straight to “I’ve heard so much about you” or something more specific… “You’re Kathy’s boss, right?” or “You’re the person who gave Bill the kittens!”

          But back to Mum- I don’t remember what she thought of “Nice to meet you,” but I do recall her saying something to the effect that “Pleased to meet you” was one of those things Americans say because they tend to be enthusiastic. Now that I think about it, I think I got it from her: “You’re Robert’s friend from college, aren’t you?” or “What lovely chrysanthemums!” Something welcoming, but not terribly personal.

          Possibly she wanted to avoid saying “how are you?” and being treated to a list of symptoms. Maybe that’s the case for me as well. Sorry, I really don’t want to know how you do! ;)

      2. run mad; don't faint*

        I’m an older southerner in my fifties, and I say it. Mostly in the context of meeting people in formal situations that I’m unlikely to see again or in awkward situations where for whatever reason I can’t work my mind around “nice to meet you.” It is just a quiet “How do you do” though, definitely not the post-Higgins Eliza Doolittle version! But it is what I was taught as being the polite response, though I certainly find “pleased/nice/good to meet you” all equally valid substitutes.

    11. Ally McBeal*

      Animaniacs did it too – the psychologist was trying to teach them manners and they went all exaggerated (“how DOOOOO you DOOOOO”) and drove the doc crazy. My brother and I grew up on that show and will sometimes still bring out this line to be silly.

      1. Rock Prof*

        This is the exact phrasing that came to my mind but I couldn’t place the source. Thanks for jogging my memory!

    12. Dust Bunny*

      I’m sure I have, but nowhere near as often as I’ve heard “nice to meet you” and I cannot imagine how “nice to meet you” might be a transgression of politeness except in the most rigid and outdated parallel universe. (And I have to confess that I sometimes find Miss Manners’ advice really fussy and unaccommodating.)

      1. My Cabbages!*

        Manners are meant to make others feel welcome and comfortable in your presence. Being overly hung up on specific phrasing seems exactly the opposite of this.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          I really like this statement.

          I also would not be opposed to a somber exchange of “My cabbages!” upon meeting.

    13. samwise*

      I’m over 60 and I’ve never heard it either. I’ve lived all over too, so I don’t think it’s a regional thing.

    14. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

      I’m from the Atlantic Region and the only time I have heard it is in the song A Boy Named Sue.

    15. purpleprose*

      Same! And I’m British. A lot of people think we say ‘How do you do’ over here, but like you I’ve literally never heard it, and I’m 56.

      1. Tally miss*

        It does seem British to my American ears. I think its the ‘do’ at the rnd that seems to need a follow up.

    16. Crunchy Granola*

      I’m a bit older and that’s what I was taught back in the days of the dinosaurs. Now it’s, nice to meet you, pleasure to meet you, so nice to put a name with a face (very useful when meeting someon in person you’ve only met on Zoom).

      Looking back, I can’t pinpoint when “how do you do?” went out of fashion.

    17. NaoNao*

      How do you do is the frosty way of avoiding “nice to meet you” or “a pleasure to meet you”–it’s a very subtle way of indicating that you’re indifferent to meeting them–or at least I believe that’s what it’s slid into now that “nice to meet you” has taken over as the default. I was taught that “How do you do” is what one says to someone it is not very nice at all to meet!

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        I just came back to see if this particular base had been covered. I think it’s good to have “how do you do?” to fall back on if you suspect that the conversation may descend into acrimony. Like maybe meeting the teacher who made your child cry, or coming in to escalate an issue you’ve been told repeatedly has been fixed, but it hasn’t. In these cases, the question mark is silent. ;)

    18. Forrest Rhodes*

      “How do you do” always makes me think of a bewildered Jack Lemmon in “Some Like It Hot,” ranting about having to wear high heels as he watches Marilyn Monroe walk away: “How DO they do that???”

      During my time living in the sparsely populated Southwest, “Howdy” was not unusual.

    19. SadieMae*

      We say it down here in the Southern US, kind of: “Howdy do!” Which is very cheerful and always makes me smile.

    20. Twisted Knickers*

      While I agree that “How do you do?” can sound a bit stuffy and old-fashioned, I have yet to find a better phrase when meeting someone for the first time at a somber occasion like a funeral or a hospital waiting room. “Nice to meet you” doesn’t seem very appropriate there.

    21. Clare*

      If you ever visit Australia you will experience the joy of being greeted by the Australian version:
      “Aaars i’ garn?”
      which translates into regular English as
      “How is it going?”

  2. IT Relationship Manager*

    Five days of sick leave sounds terrifying. I have a chronic illness and I hoard sick leave because I don’t know when something will come up. But this would get eaten up even with normal doctors appointments. Also lol each 2 week pay period would get you 1.5 hours of sick leave. It would take over 5 pay periods to earn a single day.

    Clearly LW isn’t someone who has needed to use sick leave in prior positions.

    1. Carlie*

      The idea of having to ‘earn’ sick leave is insane – are people supposed to just not get sick until they’ve worked there a specific amount of time?! Earning vacation makes more sense, I guess.

      1. Proper Doctor*

        LW1: researchers at the Donnelly-McPartlin Institute of Studies have proved that bacteria and viruses know their hosts sick leave allowance and adjust their ravages accordingly. More sick leave means more sickness.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Forget antibiotic resistance, this is the real pathogen-evolution threat. We’ll have to get the viruses and bacteria on a strict diet of social media and reality TV until they’re much too stupid to understand a calendar.

        2. ferrina*

          Unfortunately, I think we’ve all worked with That Coworker who almost definitely abuses the sick leave, but has just enough plausible deniability that you’d feel like a jerk for saying something. This is also the person that does just enough work to keep their job, far less than the rest of the team, but somehow also never has time to help others unless the boss is watching.

          But the solution isn’t to punish others who work hard and get sick. Give reasonable sick time.

        3. Observer*

          researchers at the Donnelly-McPartlin Institute of Studies have proved that bacteria and viruses know their hosts sick leave allowance and adjust their ravages accordingly. More sick leave means more sickness.


          But please *so* include a /sarc or /jk tag. Because someone *will* try to use this “fact” tp try to reduce sick leave allowances.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I earn sick leave, but it accumulates like crazy after the first 2 weeks of work. (Depending how much you have when you retire, you get a discount on your health insurance supplemental.)

        One week isn’t enough.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, if you must keep the rule about earning vacation then fine but PLEASE in addition to doubling your sick leave also grant it all at the start of the year. People can plan their vacations around when they earn it, but they can’t plan when they get sick!!

      4. Ubergaladababa*

        Eh, I think it depends on how it’s done. Feds earn sick leave, 4 hours per pay period (so 4 weeks to get a single day of leave). However, you can go negative if you need to in the early days so if you get sick shortly after starting it’s not a huge dea. It also rolls over forever (unlike our annual leave which has a 240h use or lose cap each year). 4h/pp is 13 days per year and many people end up with banks of hundreds upon hundreds of hours as government employees tend to stay a long time (you keep your leave bank when you switch jobs within the federal government).

        I’d much prefer to bank a large amount of leave over time than start over every year, even with a fairly generous annual allotment. For example, I’m using 6w of sick leave as part of my maternity leave but also I know if I or someone in my family got seriously ill and I needed to take a couple months off I could.

        We also have pretty robust leave donation programs for those with long term needs in part because lots of people have so much sick leave they’ll never use.

        1. Enough Already*

          Long time Fed here. I was shocked that the feds did not offer short term disability insurance. It’s kinda painful in the early years before sick leave is built up. But there is the leave bank, advanced leave, annual leave in lieu of sick, leave transfer and LWOP if all else fails. So newer employees or those needing more leave are not left out in the cold because of the accrual situation.

      5. Lacey*

        Yeah, every place I’ve worked you earn your vacation time, but when you start the year’s sick time is prorated for how much of the year is left (so if I got 5 days for the year and start in July, I get 2.5)

      6. Ripley*

        Not necessarily – we earn 1.5 days of sick leave per month at my workplace. That’s 18 days a year. They add up fast, and can roll over into the next year. We also get 20 days vacation leave a year.

        1. So Tired*

          respectfully, they add up fast *for you*. For someone who has a chronic condition, multiple doctor’s appointments, kids who attend daycare or school, someone who’s caring for an elderly/sickly relative, or a whole host of other things, I suspect they’d disagree that it adds up quickly. I’m glad that it does for you! But a reminder that different people have different situations, and some people can’t be waiting through the year to save up enough sick time to be able to get sick or have a family member get sick.

      7. The dark months*

        This topic was just on the news. As LW observed more and more people are actually taking their sick leave, that they earned, which is good! And yes, more and more people are running out of sick leave because there isn’t enough.

      8. pope suburban*

        I agree. I worked for three miserable years at a company that only gave five days of sick leave, and surprise! They also did not pay well! So people had, my hand to God, no choice but to come in sick because otherwise they would not make rent or their kids would not eat. It’s horrendous, and frankly I think stingy sick-leave policies like this are a symptom of unwillingness to manage, as Alison frequently points out. If someone is abusing the system, well, you manage them for it. If they still won’t be present enough, then you let them go and find someone new. It’s all out of reluctance to treat employees like adults, and it’d be funny if the consequences weren’t so dire. I’m beyond disappointed that this attitude has persisted after a global pandemic that is frankly still not over.

      9. Gumby*

        Every job that I have had with a specific amount of sick leave – there was one with “unlimited” sick leave – had the sick leave accrue. It also rolled over each year up to a whatever the cap was at each place. Since these were all good jobs with reasonable management, they also all either stated specifically in the handbook or verbally said that sick leave could be borrowed from future expected accruals. There was a limit of sorts (e.g. couldn’t go more than a year’s worth of accrual in the hole) and if you left while negative it would be deducted from your final paycheck type stuff. So even if it accrues, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t take sick time towards the beginning of your employment there.

      10. riverofmolecules*

        My organization had a probationary period where you get NO sick time for your first three months. I pushed to change this later, pointing to how I had to decide whether to come in with the flu or not get paid literally in the last days of my probationary period.

        Of course, the new CEO who started this year is changing this policy back to be much more stingy with sick days and PTO in the coming year.

      11. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        It’s more common than you would hope, that’s for sure. My first teaching job only gave us 7 sick days, and they were accrued, which makes no damn sense when you’re starting in August and flu/cold season starts in October, especially when everyone who teaches knows that any time you start in a new district you’re almost certainly going to spend a lot of that year catching everything. I got the worst case of strep in my life that September (tonsils swelled up to the size of tennis balls), had to be out 3 days, and because I hadn’t accrued even a full day of sick leave, also had a paycut on that check. It was insane.

        (And of course, when I did get back, I had an email from a parent asking to excuse one of my students for missing class because they had strep. So I know how I got it; I’m only surprised that it didn’t sweep through the entire building and have half the students out, too)

    2. Twix*

      Alison’s point about using vacation time is spot on. I have a chronic illness and get 5 weeks of combined PTO per year, and I almost always end up using all of it as sick time and time off for doctors’ appointments, and that’s with an extremely flexible schedule and working a lot of nights and weekends. I’m lucky enough to actually like my job, but never getting actual time off is rough. I’m pretty far on one end of the spectrum in terms of how much medical leave I need, but the pool of people who’d burn through 3 weeks is a lot bigger.

    3. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      Not to mention that people often use sick leave for other things, like caring for ill children or ill pets, or even for random emergencies – I once called in sick because our upstairs neighbor’s construction went awry and water started draining from our kitchen ceiling.

      1. Jessica*

        I would have thought this would be an inappropriate use of sick time at most workplaces that have separate sick & vacation time (as opposed to just one PTO bucket). It would at mine: sick leave is for being sick, medical appointments, or caring for a sick family member. Emergencies like this, or taking your car to the shop or whatever, all the other life needs that are not actually vacation or fun or relaxing but have gotta get done during the workday, come out of vacation time.

        1. Beth*

          It depends on the organization. In some places, sick leave is strictly for medical things. In others, it’s the “last minute without notice OOO” bucket.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I think that trying to exactly police what sick time is being used for is itself an issue. I’ve seen places that insist you take from another pool even if it’s your child’s sickness or if it’s a pet emergency, and all it does is create resentment.

      2. Anon for this*

        Or when the obnoxious interim director who got her position because she’s very good at convincing the CEO that no one else wants to help the company succeed (translation: we want her to fill out appropriate requisition documentation so if an auditor comes through and wants to know who approved that, her name is on it. she thinks this is an unecessary waste of her valuable time) spent all day yesterday chewing you out and you really don’t feel like interacting with her two days in a row.

    4. Cat Tree*

      My company has unlimited sick leave and I’m so glad. Last year I got back-to-back colds (none of them Covid, fortunately) and I had bronchitis for over six weeks. But it wasn’t severe enough to require hospitalization and short term disability. I didn’t 6 straight weeks of sick time, but I needed probably 10 days just within that short window.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        I came here to ask this: I think we’ve learned in the US that unlimited vacation policies often don’t work well in practice but why on earth don’t we generally allow for unlimited sick time? Will there be people who abuse it? Sure. There will always be people who try to abuse the system. But people get sick and they don’t do it on a schedule! No one should ever be in the position of having to postpone surgery or come into work sick because they haven’t accrued enough leave, or because they can’t afford to take leave unpaid.

        Kudos to your company for implementing this – it seems so sensible to me!

        1. SeluciaMD*

          Clarification because I just realized the way I wrote that only made sense in my head LOL. I came here to ask why we don’t implement unlimited sick time because it seems like such a simple, good idea.

          1. I Have RBF*

            My current company has unlimited sick leave and unlimited vacation for exempt employees.

            This turned out to be invaluable earlier this year when I caught Covid – I took two weeks to recover from Covid, and another six weeks of part time exhaustion to recover from recovering. My boss said not to worry, he’d had it himself, and it takes what it takes, and I could work when I was able, and bail when I wasn’t.

            My manager also models taking enough vacation. My vacation this year adds up to three weeks, which is about normal for me. All of it is approved by my manager. (IIRC, they have a talk with you if you don’t take enough vacation.)

      2. C.*

        Although we don’t get unlimited sick leave, the sick leave granted us is very generous. I’ve never had to use PTO to cover sick time, and every manager I’ve had here has been totally fine with me (and my colleagues) flexing schedules to account for doctor’s visits and travel—e.g., unless I have a full day of doctor’s appointments, I really don’t need to take sick time to account for the schedule disruption. It makes a tremendous difference. I just checked my bank, and I have 43 days of sick time stored up right now.

    5. Clown Eradicator*

      I don’t even get a set amount of days, just instances which can range from a few hours to weeks. Over 3 instances and you’re written up. I’ve used most of my vacation time this year managing chronic issues and Dr appt because of this. And it’s also one of the many reasons I’m looking for a new job.

      1. Clown Eradicator*

        Eta: if you get sick, take off, think you’re OK and show up for a half hour and decide you’re still sick then go home, that’s 2 instances.

        1. Lab Boss*

          That really pushes the system from “poorly designed” to “explicitly cruel.” Plus it’s a terrible incentive, by punishing people for trying to get some work done! It reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) stories about companies that declare “if you’re more than 5 minutes late you lose a half-day’s pay” and instead of showing up at 8:15, latecomers just don’t show up until noon.

          1. animorph*

            I think it tries to encourage people to not return to work early, and pushes you to fully recover first. If you turn up and go home half an hour later, then you weren’t at all ready to return to work.

            At least, that’s how an old manager described the intent behind it. In practice, with a shit manager who pressures you to return, it can punish you for trying your best.

            1. Bast*

              If that is the intent behind the policy, there needs to be adequate sick leave to begin with. When you are only given 3 or 5 or heck NO paid sick days, the result is going to be that people rush back whether they are physically ready or not because they are afraid of running through their entire sick bank for a single illness.

      2. Lizzie*

        We used to have that at my company; but it DID go on a rolling basis. I think you got 3 “occurrences” for 5 days, any more than that, you got a chat from your manager and were on what they called “attendance control” Which was kind of dumb; I was out sick once, hospitalized and then home, for 2 weeks. And even though I had a doctor’s note, and was on STD, my manager still had to chat with me. Thankfully he didn’t care as he knew why I was out, and that it was legitiamte.
        we now follow our state guidelines, and get 40 hours per year and can carry over up to 40 hours, so its possible to have a max of 80 hours, which for us, works out to about 10 sick days. However, they’re pretty good about stuff like that, and so far, knock on wood, I haven’t been sick enough to use up all my time in any given year.

      3. Dek*

        They’ve sort of started something like this with us. Not so much in terms of the leave itself (we earn sick leave and annual leave with our paychecks), but with “unscheduled absences” (which sick leave is usually used for). Three gets us a notification that hey, you’ve had three. I think five gets you written up.

        I can’t think of a time where I wasn’t sick more than three times in a year, unless you count lockdown, when no one went anywhere or saw anyone.

    6. There's no like cute restaurants in the neighborhood*

      Five days sounds like you want people to come in to work sick. As someone who barely uses sick time (leaving a position with 2 months banked, accumulated over 9 years), I would laugh my way out of an interview of a job offering 5 days. That’s not even considering COVID. My work offers 4 days leave for COVID alone.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Yeah the less sick days you give, the more times you have employees coming in mildly ill and spreading illness to everyone else. Then you spend several weeks with a sickness rolling through your organization rather than stopping at one employee.

        Also COVID leave should definitely be at least 5 days, since that’s the minimum isolation period.

    7. Mockingjay*

      My medium-sized company (250 employees) offers 15 days of PTO to start. Which is about what OP1 offers. I’ve had pretty much the same leave accrual at other companies. My company does increase PTO for each year worked (I’m up to 25 days), and this past year began fronting new employees 40 hours of PTO upon start. But what OP1 offers isn’t really out of the “norm.” (It should be, of course.)

      OP1 can offer more time, and perhaps consider fronting new employees a certain amount to get them started. She could also offer PTO instead – leave for employees to use as they see fit. There are pros and cons to PTO vs annual & sick leave, of course. I hope OP1 explores lots of options and asks employees what would work best for them.

        1. Mockingjay*

          PTO is use for any reason. But it’s up to you to manage it so you have sufficient time for everything: vacation, unexpected illness, and one-offs like inclement weather.

          Annual and sick leave usually have separate requirements for use: annual is for vacation and personal time; sick leave is only for medical appointments and illness. Sick leave often has usage constraints – for instance, using anything over 3 sick days requires a doctor’s note, or you can’t use sick leave to take care of a ill child.

          Neither system is perfect. It’s all in how the company administers leave policies – the best companies have flexibility or adjust as they go along, such as allowing rollover so you can take a long vacation, fronting new employees leave, or not questioning the “why” of sick days.

      1. AcidQueen*

        My old company switched from OP1’s to Mockingjay’s company and it was….bananas. PTO = vacation and sick are lumped into the same bucket. They supposedly were “gifting” you an extra 16 hours of PTO with the lumping to “do as you see fit” and wouldn’t question what you did with vacation vs. sick, but employees with more time invested in the company lost hours in the switchoff. The only benefit was management doesn’t have to keep track of doctor’s notes.

        In OP1’s version, we had to validate sick vs. vacation and neither could cross streams. Management would get mad because some people would “get sick” a day before or after a vacation to cover the extra hours needed. Then someone would send an angry email about not using sick time for vacation, bring in your doctors notes, etc. and at the same time force real sick people to question whether they were “sick.”

        1. My Cabbages!*

          As someone who has gotten food poisoning on the last day of my vacation more than once…well, I can come in if it *really* bothers them but they might not appreciate it…

        2. SpaceySteph*

          “The only benefit was management doesn’t have to keep track of doctor’s notes.”

          Gee, if only we could think of another way to solve this problem.


          Nope, can’t come up with anything.

          (This textual eyeroll is direct at your company, not you, to be clear)

      2. Orange_Erin*

        This is how my company is to – 15 days to start in a general PTO bucket to use however you want (sick time or vacation). I always thought that was generous. We get additional days with seniority (max 25) and can roll over up to 5 days. Also, we have an additional 2 day “sick time” allotment for emergencies when all other PTO has been exhausted but it’s not severe enough to need FMLA.
        I think the biggest thing that helps us is flexibility – if you are sick stay home if it’s just a cold and you don’t want to lose a PTO day, work from home.

    8. samwise*

      Let’s not get nasty with the OP. They *asked* if it was enough and are concerned about it — respond nicely.

      And for all you know, the OP *has* needed sick leave in prior positions –that doesn’t mean they know what’s correct as an HR manager, which they described as something they are learning as they go along.

      1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        I agree; yes the amount is too low at present but that’s what OP asked about. OP1 is trying to determine what’s a good/normal amount, not being resistant to the idea that they need more. That should be factored in to responses.
        If OP was set on maintaining the current amount of sick leave, they wouldn’t have written in.

      2. Up and Away*

        I was thinking the same thing…thank you for pointing it out. Makes one hesitant to write in with a legitimate question for fear of the ensuing pile-on.

      3. MK*

        Yes. It’s really unfair to bash a small business owner trying to do right by their employees when large businesses offer FAR less.

      4. Beth*

        Yeah, OP1 sounds like someone who’s been dropped in a role that they don’t actually have the background or training for and who is doing their best in those less than ideal circumstances. It sounds like they set their number kind of at random, are now seeing people exceed it, and need a gut check on whether the solve to that is an individual exception or a systemic change. For someone who’s been thrown into the deep end in a new field, that’s a reasonable question! They clearly aren’t resistant to increasing it.

      5. Doc McCracken*

        I agree with this too! OP1 has built a company from the ground up which is no small feat and is asking an expert to make sure they are doing right by their employees. Learning and doing better should be applauded not scolded.

    9. Beth Jacobs*

      I would add that the ability to work remotely is a huge factor whether 5 days of sick leave is enough. If I can work remotely with minor infections or when recovering from surgery, it’s doable for me. If I actually have to get dressed, commute and share an office while I’m coughing / vomiting / walking on crutches / not walking at all? Can’t do it.

      1. Beth*

        Agreed! If I have a lingering cold, I’d rather work from home than lie in bed with nothing to do–there’s only so much TV I can watch, and I’m staying home anyways because I don’t want to get anyone else sick.

    10. Vanilla Club*

      We 3 sick days a year. Yes, you read that correctly 3 days per year. It accrues over the year as 1 hour per pay period (twice monthly), it’s the only time that rolls over and we can use it in hour increments.

      We also get 2 personal day per year (must be used as half or whole days) and we start at 2 weeks of vacation per year, 3 weeks at 5 years and 4 weeks at 10 years & up (also must be used as half or whole days). No roll over, use it or lose it.

        1. Vanilla Club*

          Yep. You can wipe that out waiting to get a doctor’s appointment. I have a job that I can realistically do 90% from home, but the company is very anti-WFH. We did for 3 months when everything shut down in March of 2020 and we were back in the office as soon as the shut down was lifted June of 2020.

    11. LW#1*

      LW#1 Here – We are in Massachusetts so everyone has access to Paid Family & Medical Leave – a short term disability plan!

      1. Up and Away*

        That’s wonderful!! I’m in Ohio, and we get nothing. Thankfully we are in the process of rolling out a company-paid short term disability plan, so at least we’ll have that.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        Hi LW1 – once you hit 11 employees, you will need to comply with Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time Law. Employees need to earn at least 1 hour of sick time per 30 hours worked.

    12. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think your last sentence is unfair to the OP. They are a small company that has grown and are trying their best. There are so many companies, even large corporations that do not have sick time at all and very little vacation time. Heck, my family member was ecstatic when their company went from 3 sick days to 5 sick days on top of their 10 vacation days.

    13. Pizza Rat*

      In my state 5 days is the minimum required by law if a business employs a certain number of people that escapes me.

      I’ve worked places that will give you ten days of sick time, but they lean heavily on planning its use ahead for things like doctor’s appointments. As if you can plan when you or your family can get sick. You were also dinged for using “too much” sick time even though you technically had earned it.

    14. Lacey*

      Well, they may not have needed it and that’s why they’re re-evaluating the current policy.
      I’ve only had to use my entire sick leave once in nearly 20 years. When I see 5 days I think, “Yup, that’s good” because for me it is.

      I have had coworkers and friends who are sick a LOT and 5 days is not enough for them. But if I didn’t, it would never occur to me that 5 days isn’t fine.

      1. Bast*

        I am not someone who gets sick often either, but Covid has been a game changer. You are still supposed to quarantine for 5 days if you test positive. Assuming the best and that you get sick over a weekend, that’s still 3 days you need to quarantine which is nearly all of someone’s sick time for one round of Covid, and that’s assuming a mild infection. Plenty of people have gotten Covid more than once a year, and that’s not even including regular flus and such. This depends again on whether you can WFH when sick, but some companies (including my old one) had the idea of “if you’re sick enough to stay home, just use a sick day” effectively forcing people to come in sick because of the low amount of sick leave.

        1. Clisby*

          Well … if you’re diagnosed with flu, you should be taking at least 5 days off as well. Flu is nothing to mess around with. (I’ve never had Covid, but have had flu twice as an adult, and it’s the sickest I’ve ever been in my life.)

          Fortunately, I never worked for anyone who thought people who were seriously ill needed to come in to work.

          1. Bast*

            I’ve never had a flu that lasted 5 days, but perhaps I just have an unusually fast heal rate. At most, I’ve found I feel crappy for about 48 hours.

            1. metadata minion*

              Are you absolutely sure that it was the flu? If so, you’re *very* lucky. Influenza usually makes someone miserable for at least a week.

            2. Laura*

              It probably wasn’t the flu then. We’re talking influenza, not the “stomach flu” which isn’t the flu at all. I had the flu in 8th grade and 12th grade and I missed an entire week of school each time.

      2. Hush42*

        Yeah I’m the same way. I don’t think I’ve taken a single sick day in the last few years. My company allows WFH if you’re sick so that one or two times I’ve been sick I just worked from home because I felt fine- just stuffy and maybe a sore throat. And coincidentally the worst days of sickness each time have been weekends. But I live on my own and am blessed enough to be generally very healthy with no chronic issues. I have employees who have gotten sick and burned through all the time they had (before we allowed WFH and increased our time off policy). Other people have kids or illnesses or just get sick more often in general and it’s not fair to anyone to use me or people like me as examples of how much sick time is needed. Unfortunately it feels like corporate America is based on the minority and not the majority. My brother, sister in law, and their 4 kids moved in with me (temporarily) last week so I am anticipating needing to use more sick time over the next few months. I love my nieces more than anything but they are little germ factories. And I gave up my home office to make room for them so WFH has become much more difficult.

      3. Laura*

        I can’t imagine this at all. I need to be able to stay home and rest when I have a bad cold (which happened a couple times a year) plus I get migraines and sometimes need to stay home for that. Not to mention doctors appointments. 5 days is nothing.

    15. So Tired*

      In general, if you have to ask “Do we offer enough sick leave?” I think it would be best to assume that the answer is no. Because if you were offering enough (and one total week, accumulated over time?! certainly isn’t enough) you wouldn’t be in a position where you’d need to be asking that question.

    16. Positively Hippo Camp*

      My current (large) employer makes all staff members accrue one day of sick leave per month from the start. When I was starting last year, I just told my manager straight to her face that it was impossible, and we needed to make “a gentleman’s agreement” that I would take unofficial sick leave whenever necessary. She was confused at first and I was like “The flu? Covid? A migraine? Literally any doctor’s appointment?” Then she got on board. It’s worked out fine, and now I have a solid bank of 15 sick days to use going forward. That seems fair to me as it matches what my previous employer gave us: 15 sick days in a lump sum at the start of each year. That (15 sick days in a lump sum), by the way, is a good standard, in my opinion.

    17. Anax*

      Agreed; if you have a chronic illness it can drain FAST. I typically take about one sick day per month, and that keeps my sick leave balance near zero.

      (I get dreadful headaches and vertigo when the weather or stress have pushed my body too hard, and spend the day laying flat in bed with a timer to drink my 300 mL of fluids every 20 minutes. I try to prevent those days as much as possible, but… bodies, y’all, they’re a pain.)

      I do think it’s also relevant whether these employees have flex time. If they’re unable to flex their schedule around appointments, because it’s a job where constant coverage is necessary, I think ten days of sick leave may be on the low side. Just an annual physical and two routine dental cleanings would eat three of those days, and even healthy people should be taking those appointments at an absolute minimum.

    18. Always Tired*

      Where I live the legal minimum is 1 hour or sick time accrued for every 30 worked, and anything above “unskilled” labor offers more.

  3. Eric*

    #1, you may want to suggest switching some of those skeleton darts to personal days: days that people can use as either extra vacation or extra such leave, as circumstances dictate. people get more level, but you still get the same number of hours of work.

      1. Eric*

        They don’t have a lot of vacation time right now. But they have a lot (13 holidays plus 7-8(?) skeleton) fixed days off. This converts the fixed days off to be flexible.

    1. BRR*

      How does that solve the issue? Nothing is stopping the employees from using vacation time when they’re sick/have doctor appointments.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Because days off on dates that the employer chooses are less useful to employees. That week off for July 4th won’t be much use if you’re sick on January 15th.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Some places have policies whereby you need to put in for paid holiday leave at least two weeks before you want to take off, whereas with sick leave you rarely know you’ll need it until you find yourself unable to haul your body out of bed

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        It doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of these particular sick cases, but in general with the 13 holidays and the extra time off for the cases noted their total time off given does seem reasonably in line with what is more common–but it won’t feel that way to their employees if they don’t get to choose when to take half their time off. Offering a bit of flexibility if possible may help.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I really dislike putting sick and vacation into the same bucket – people go in to work sick because they don’t want to lose a potential vacation day being sick, and people also feel like they can’t take all their days even if they have them, because what if they get sick in December?

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yes- as someone who rarely gets sick (and can work from home if it’s minor) I directly benefit from my company’s “one bucket” system by getting a lot of vacation time. But on the flip side at the end of our fiscal year, every single year management and HR are confused and upset that everyone wants to take time off. I’ve told them multiple years running that the system incentivizes hoarding time just in case and then using it all up at the end of the year rather than losing some… I’ll let you know if I’m ever believed.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          There are other ways to fix this as well, like allowing people to roll vacation over from year to year. And having vacation accrue on a rolling basis rather than be front-loaded. Maybe they’d like one of those solutions in stead.

          1. Lab Boss*

            We do get to roll some vacation over, but not unlimited- that helps mitigate the problem but not eliminate it entirely (since anyone who wants to roll over all/most of their limit will still want to save some emergency hours for the last part of the year and then use them).

            I’m open to hearing why you disagree but I think moving away from front-loading would actually make the problem worse. With front loading some people will use up a lot of their hours over the summer (our fiscal year starts in the late spring) and not have as much left at use-it-or-lose-it time. If you do accrual the people who would have saved up will still save up, but some people who would have used a lot of hours earlier in the year didn’t have them to use then and have to use them later in the year (when “too many” people already want to use hours).

            1. SpaceySteph*

              In my mind they’re using more hours at the end of the year because they know they’re going to get a bunch more come the first pay period in January. If you get, say, 6 hours a pay period then you need to save some hours in December if you want to use them in Jan or Feb because you won’t have a large bank to use in Jan. If you get hit with 200 hours on Jan 1st, then you have a ton of hours to use in the new year and don’t have to save any from Dec, thus can wipe yourself out in the last week of December.

              In truth though, I wonder why they care. If its a mandatory coverage position (which I’ve had) or there are end of year deliverables, do the schedule far enough in advance that people can plan around coverage/delivery. If its not, what does it hurt if the whole company takes the same time off?

              1. Lab Boss*

                Ah, I see, you’re talking about accrual coupled with eliminating the “use it or lose it” deadline at the end of the fiscal year- that could certainly help.

                As to why they care: it’s a blend. We have some coverage positions (we can’t just shut down our manufacturing arm), and we have some that aren’t (and in fact, with a lab team it’s probably MORE efficient to have everyone out at once and then be full strength, instead of being 1 scientist down for a month as everyone staggers their breaks). It’s a corporate culture thing where they just “don’t like too many people out” in a broad way, instead of making individual decisions.

          2. RegBarclay*

            We can only roll over a week where I am. I always thought they should just move the rollover date. We’re a cyclical industry and pretty dead in Jan/Feb, whereas December is not exactly busy but the holidays complicate things. So the people taking time off just so they don’t use it won’t have to compete with people taking time for the holidays.

            Our PTO is a weird mix of accrual and front loading. I have access to all of the year’s PTO as of 1/1 but if I haven’t formally accrued it and quit/get fired, I’d have to pay it back. So no way am I going to take unearned PTO, even though it’s allowed.

      2. Cat Lover*

        Not if it’s accrued. I’ve always had sick and vacation in the same bucket that accrues per pay period and it’s so easy. I wouldn’t want to manage sick vs vacation.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I don’t really understand the issue here. If you run out of sick days and then get sick, you have to use vacation time if you want to be paid. So under either system, if you anticipate getting sick a lot then you need to save some vacation time. The combined bucket just gives you more flexibility with how much you want to save for illness.

        1. Anon for this*

          It incentivizes people to come in sick, and get their coworkers sick, if they’re not feeling well but still mobile, because if they don’t use sick time they get more vacation time, and more vacation is good. And penalizes people who stay home, use sick time, and don’t drop a massive lack of productivity debuff on the office by getting everyone sick with fewer, shorter vacations. In situations where hours don’t carry over at the end of this year, this adds an extra level of frustration, because the end of the year is flu season.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Because if I have two weeks of PTO in one bucket and I have a vacation planned in April but I get the flu in March, I don’t want to use half my PTO on the flu and not be able to take any more time off the rest of the year, so I come in sick.

          If sick is in a different bucket then I take sick time for the flu but can still take my vacation plus maybe another day here or there.

          Being able to work from home while sick changes the calculation a bit but if that’s not allowed or not possible I’ve just blown my PTO and have to work the rest of the year without another day off.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I just still don’t follow. Keeping the number of days the same, but calling it 7 days vacation and 3 sick, you still wouldn’t want to use up 5 of those days on one vacation and have no time off the rest of the year. You’d still need to use some vacation time if your flu lasted more than 3 days.

            1. Anon for this*

              Because it wouldn’t be half of that is PTO and half of that is sick time, it would be “you still have ten days of PTO, PLUS five days of sick time”, because in practice, two weeks of PTO is the bare minimum most people will want, and if thr company reduces it below two weeks off they’d be met with resignations.

            2. pope suburban*

              I mean, I think part of the issue here is that people are- rightly, I think- viewing it as unacceptable that people are asked to plan when they will be ill. The corollary to that is that it makes it very difficult to set aside other time off, because what if I need it when I’m sick? I did that dance for many years, and while I certainly could not have afforded a trip, it would have been nice to take some time off to see to other life responsibilities (I did not have the schedule flex to do this; I worked 8-5 and that was that), to take care of bigger household projects, or simply to decompress. When I had to ration out crumbs of time because I could not afford to go unpaid, it meant I was neglecting my human need to pause, for years on end. This was terrible for me, and not great for the companies, because I was less productive, as has been proven in study after study after study. It’s less an issue of the base math and more an issue with why the system is not a good one.

      4. Eric*

        Is it ideal? Maybe not, but seems like a reasonable compromise of competing priorities here:
        1. OP doesn’t want to give more time off than currently (I think the total PTO they currently have is more than generous).
        2. People need more time they can use when they are sick.
        3. Employees who don’t use all their sick time, probably would look disfavorably towards having a week off converted to only being allowed to use if they were sick.
        4. If they have a reasonable carry-over policy for sick leave, the “feel like you can’t use them” effect only applies to year one. At that point you can have time banked for future emergencies.

      5. Lacey*

        Same. I love having protected sick time. Especially if it rolls over & you can accrue a chunk of it. And since employers don’t have to pay out sick time when people leave like they may have to with vacation time – there’s no reason not to be generous that way.

        My previous job let us roll over sick time till we got to 12 weeks worth.
        I never needed it, but I felt so secure knowing I had it for an emergency.

        My current employer does “unlimited” which… is fine. My boss is really good about encouraging us to take the time we need so we don’t have the common issue of using less time than we would if we just got a standard 2 weeks.

    3. LW#1*

      Thank you I might do this. I have always felt like those two weeks a year are not productive work wise so why make people work but maybe that doesn’t work well for others.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I think it depends on your business’s needs – if there’s really no work to do during those times, it may make sense to close. But in a lot of jobs, you might have a backlog of work to catch up on during slow periods.

      2. Eric*

        I’d get that argument around Christmas/New Years. I’ve never noticed July 4th to effect people’s productivity much (unless you are saying your business slows down then).

      3. SpaceySteph*

        It really depends on the nature of your work. As someone who is not Christian, I enjoy having quiet time around Christmas to get quiet work done (documentation, email backlog, product improvements, etc). I was super productive last week Mon/Tues while I was working and nobody was bothering me.

        But if your business doesn’t have a lot of quiet work then it doesn’t really make sense.

      1. FrogEngineer*

        Same, at my workplace you get 13 days of PTO when you start, and you get one more day (+8 hrs) each year you work there. This is all your sick time and vacation time for the year.

    1. anon24*

      Lol I read the letter and was like wow, 5 whole sick days, what craziness is this? The most I ever got was 4 in a year but it was accrued and you couldn’t accrue more than 2 days at a time, once you hit 16 hours you forfeited any further sick time until you used it up (I was always magically ill every time my sick bank hit 15.5 hours, how strange).

      1. Emmy Noether*

        That’s absurd. Plenty of things require more than 2 sick days at one time. A lot of contagious illnesses are also still contagious at that time, even if one can manage to drag oneself to work.

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, before I retired my employer gave 18 sick days a year (accrued at 1.5 days per month), and you could carry over a good bit. The carryover had some limit, but when my first child was born I used 6 weeks of carried-over sick leave so wasn’t without pay very long.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            My current employer you start off with three full days of sick leave, earn half a day each paycheck, and can carry it over year over year till you retire (it’s not paid out to you then, but we do pay out vacation that’s unused). There still needs to be paperwork if you’re going to use more than four days in a row….but that doesn’t need to be more than “so and so needs to rest because they are sick” from you PCP.

    2. Chirpy*

      Right? My employer keeps telling us that “we’re so great and better than industry standards” with a whopping 3 days of sick leave (Unfortunately, it’s true…pre-pandemic, we had none. Industry standards for retail are inhumane.)

      Even my old office job had no paid sick leave, though.

      1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        A lot of cities increasingly have five paid sick days as the legal minimum… so not exactly a competitive or alluring amount.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Pre-pandemic I would get a week-long cold once or twice a year. I was working on-site, and invariably I caught “the cold” from a coworker with kids. They’d only take a day off, then come in sick, and I’d be out for a week. Working from home, even part time, helped – I might be coughing and feverish, but I could do a little work, so only had to hit my sick time for half a day.

          That is to say, five days sick time is never enough for me, between medical appointments and actually being “stay in bed” sick. I could make ten work. If I had sick and vacation rolled into one bucket I often didn’t get much actual vacation.

        1. Chirpy*

          Exactly. Three days is not even enough to cover getting covid or the flu, and you’re still stuck hoping you don’t ever get sick – a week long illness, if you can’t manage to talk a manager into letting you use vacation (if you have any), may mean not being able to pay rent. (because a living wage around here is nearly $5 more per hour than I get paid, too…also “industry standard” and double minimum wage.)

      2. CommanderBanana*

        My first job out of grad school was as a contractor for the Fed. No sick leave. At all. 2 weeks of vacation per year. So disgusting. That contracting company eventually started offering some sick leave right around the time I left, but I can’t remember if it was because the Fed started requiring contractors to do that, or if they realized that it was incredibly shitty of them (or they were losing employees to contracting companies with better benefits).

      3. My Cabbages!*

        When I worked retail banking I got exactly 0 paid sick days, so if I got sick I didn’t eat anything but ramen that week.

        I once, when I had a cold, had a customer tell me snottily “you should stay home when you are sick.” You are right, sir, I should. Are you going pay my rent then?

    3. Melonhead*

      Thank you! Where are these jobs that get so much leave? I want one of those.

      I don’t know anyone who gets 8 days of sick leave plus 15 days of vacation plus 10+ paid holidays.

      1. The Netherlands - it's not that bad*

        Welcome to the Netherlands! When you have a permanent contract with your employer here, you get paid whenever you are sick, at least for one year. It’s almost surreal for me to read that in de US, you can have a system where you have to earn or save up sick days. Also, in teaching (my job) you have 12 weeks vacation per year. And still some people are complaining here…

        1. Clisby*

          Do teachers actually have 12 weeks of vacation? As in, 12 weeks where they’re paid but aren’t working?

          Teachers in the US typically have summers off, but they’re not paid for that time. Often they’re allowed to portion their pay over 12 months (I guess that makes budgeting easier) but at least in my state they’re only paid for the 190 days they’re contracted for.

          1. amoeba*

            No, in Europe, you are normally paid for the summer. However, the summer break (which is typically “only” six weeks here) isn’t completely time off for teachers, as there’s also prep work etc. done. In Germany at least, conditions for teachers aren’t that great, although yes, they do technically get 12 weeks “off” (off teaching, not off all work.)

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yes, in Ireland, we get paid holidays and most of it is generally completely off. The first week or so, you will often have tests to correct and the last week or so, you might have planning for the upcoming year, but in between you are free.

            There are some exceptions where teachers only have a 9 month contract, generally when subbing. My first two years in my current school I had nine month contracts. But that is likely to be a short term thing before you get a permanent position.

            Some information here:

        2. Baunilha*

          I’m in Brazil, where employees get 30 vacation days and unlimited sick days, as long as they have a doctor’s note.
          Having three days of sick leave is just inhumane.

        3. Humble Schoolmarm*

          In Canada, but yes, I get paid for 195 work days spread over 12 months (that’s just how it is, you can’t decide to be paid for 10 months). That 195 work days includes days for organizing, assessment and professional learning, though.

          I also get 20 days of sick leave per year and can bank up to 195 days. The problem is, I don’t get any vacation days and technically, sick days are not for ‘The pipes burst and I’m waiting on the plumber’ or pet emergencies so most schools have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy over why exactly you’re sick.

      2. DLW*

        I work for local government and we get 12 sick days, 4 personal days, a floating holiday, 13 or 14 paid holidays, plus a minimum of 10 vacation days (I get 20 vacation days a year). All sick days carry over and I currently have 98 sick days accrued).

        1. Rachel morgan*

          I’m local government as well (well, a public library).

          To start, employees either start with 96 hours (12 sick days) for FT or 40 hours (5 days) for PT, front loaded, beginning of every year.

          Separate from that is vacation (I will NOT combine them). For FT, 6 months gets you 36 hours, then 96 hours at a year. PT is equivalent (so, if a PT works 10 hours a week, they’d get 24 hours of vacation).

          Separate from that is paid holidays, which are currently 11, but if a holiday falls on a saturday or sunday, the library closes the following monday.

          Most staff (except me, because I’m sick a lot) have quite a bit of time accrued.

          And if they want to switch instead of using a vacation or sick day, I let them (well, they either make the switch themselves or tell me so I can make the switch, I do not make anyone find their own sub.)

      3. Seashell*

        Among people I know who have non-entry level professional jobs requiring a college degree or more with large corporations or government, they have that or a comparable equivalent.

        1. Heather*

          Sure, but those aren’t really typical jobs though. only about 36% of Americans have college degrees.

          1. Katie A*

            Jobs with at least some amount of sick leave are typical jobs, though. About 80% of civilian workers have access to some kind of sick leave. 68% of those people get a specific number of sick days (8 is the average) and 30% have access to sick leave because they get one pot of leave. So most jobs do have sick leave of some kind, not just jobs for people with college degrees or at large corporations or government. Those jobs will probably have less, though, which sucks.

          2. Seashell*

            Melonhead wanted to know where these jobs are, and I gave an answer. The question wasn’t if these jobs were typical or available to everyone.

      4. Ana Gram*

        Local government! We get just over 12 days each of sick and annual leave plus a floating holiday plus 14.5 standard holidays. And we also accrue additional leave based on seniority. The money is fine but the benefits are great!

        1. SopranoH*

          When I worked for the state, we got 10 days of sick leave, earned our vacation leave, had 12 holidays, and comp time for various reasons. The department where I worked encouraged you to use the sick leave first because that didn’t roll over, and no one in that department wanted to police it because the position was difficult to hire. After 3 years, relatively frequent vacations, and a stint on STD that was half paid out of PTO, I still had about 200 hours that were paid out when I left.

          The only thing I miss about that job is the PTO. My current job is fairly generous but not that generous.

          Of course it doesn’t beat my friend who worked for our neighboring state. Her sick time rolled over. Being a relatively healthy person, she just used it to retire a year early.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            For me, everything rolls over up to a certain amount. I think 30 days of vacation and 120 days of sick.

      5. DJ Abbott*

        IME Office jobs usually have decent benefits with several sick days and at least two weeks vacation. Where I work now I get 12 sick days and about three weeks vacation, as well as all the bank holidays. (In the US).
        A good employer offers more time off because it helps them attract and retain good employees. So you have to shop around for one with good benefits. Some industries have less time off. If you’re in one of those maybe develop some skills so you can move into regular office work or a similar industry.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Also, you don’t have to have a college degree to get a job with decent benefits! I don’t have one. Can we please get rid of the idea that a degree is required to have a decent life? Anyone who looks around can see that’s not true.

          1. Seashell*

            A degree isn’t required to have a decent life, but it improves your odds of getting a job with good benefits and the average lifetime earnings of college graduates are significantly higher than people with high school only.

            I have a relative who has a high school diploma and a very good paying job, but it involves a lot of physical labor and the time will probably come later in life that he will be unable to do it. As long as my brain works and I can sit in a chair 8 hours a day, I can continue doing my office job.

          2. Kez*

            I think this is an excellent point. When I withdrew from college for medical reasons, I was halfway convinced by the prevailing narrative that my job prospects were stunted for life, or at least until I was able to get un-disabled long enough to finish my degree. I currently have a well-paid office position with great benefits at an institution of higher education where I’ll be able to earn the remainder of my degree at my own pace, for free. It may not be easy and it may involve a significant amount of luck, but based on conversations with my peers who do have degrees, that’s true for their job searches as well.

            The job market is complex and there is no one-size-fits-all method for finding a sustainable career path. We all can make our best guesses based on current research and what we know about ourselves, but it’s important to note that you are the person best positioned to make these choices for yourself.

          3. Chirpy*

            This, but also, a college degree doesn’t guarantee a good job will actually be available. You might be surprised how many college graduates work retail and food service.

            And the people working food service and retail deserve a good life too, either way. Every full time job should pay enough to live on comfortably.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Yup! I have a Masters and it took two years for me to get a job in my field after graduating. In the meantime I was a server/bartender at a country club and then was lucky enough to land a year-long internship that helped me get a job.

              1. Chirpy*

                Yeah, I haven’t managed to escape retail yet…despite a move to a bigger city that theoretically has more jobs (and then covid meant job search stalled), now I’m just afraid nobody else will hire me after 10 years of retail.

                1. DJ Abbott*

                  If you’re looking for a job that deals with people in any capacity, retail work is an asset! It’s customer service experience. I worked at a grocery store in 2021 to get experience for the job I have now. Also, any work dealing with inventory, shipping-receiving, stocking or ordering, is good administrative experience.

          4. I Have RBF*


            Yes, I have some college, but I ran out of money and patience and wasn’t willing to take on massive debt for a degree of dubious worth (my school was kind of crappy.)

            Both my prior career and my current one prefer degrees, but if you are good at teaching yourself new stuff, you don’t need a piece of paper showing that you can learn. I have nearly 25 years in my current field, no degree. I make low six figures.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Yes! Exactly! I’ve posted before about employers using degrees to discriminate against people who got a bad start in life, and colleges taking advantage to rake in the $$$. I can write volumes about all the damage done by the myth that a degree is required to have a good job.
              What’s actually required for most jobs are skill and experience.

          5. Bast*

            I am in the legal field. All of the attorneys, and a good deal of the staff have degrees. Law firms can either be some of the stingiest or the most generous with vacation and sick leave. I’ve seen as little as 10 combined days. Having a degree doesn’t seem to be quite as much of a factor as picking the right company… although I understand that in some fields like retail and food service, no/little PTO is the norm, but I think office jobs run the gamut more than people think.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Yes… my first few office jobs were in manufacturing in the 80s – 90s, and they considered one week vacation and three sick days to be good benefits. So it’s also good to know your industry and if it’s generally not good benefits, maybe switch industries.

      6. Amy*

        I’m in the US and have 10 sick days + 24 vacation days + the federal holidays and the last week of the year off.. Fortune 1000 company. The packages for vacation are based on years with the company starting with 12 days, from the warehouse workers to upper management.

      7. Jackalope*

        Federal govt positions in the US have 4 hours of sick leave per pay period that you can accumulate indefinitely. If you are rarely sick then you can accumulate a large cushion of leave that will cover things like accidents, surgery, etc. and continue getting paid for your sick leave that whole time.

      8. doreen*

        Also union jobs – and some of those jobs might surprise you. In the NYC area, some supermarket and retail employees belong to unions.

      9. samwise*

        I’m a 12-month employee of a state university (= state employee, benefits determined by a combo of state, university system, and my institution)

        I have 8 hours of sick leave/month. It accumulates indefinitely. It does not pay out on retirement, so we are encouraged to donate it (my plan is to use it up if possible). I have in the past used up all of my sick leave, all of my annual leave, and all of the leave my husband donated to me (child with a very serious illness) –hundreds of hours

        I have 16 hours of annual leave/month. Any hours over 240 at the end of the year convert to sick leave (that’s so they don’t have to pay it out on retirement, obvs).

        We get one free-floating personal observance day (I use it to compensate for the day the university is closed for winter break, but we have to use leave even though we can’t work)

        I have bits and bobs of bonus leave from when the university gave leave in lieu of salary increases.

        Annual and bonus leave pay out up to 240 hours upon retirement.

        We have civil leave (jury duty, subpoena’d witness) but not voting leave.

        We have 13 days of paid holiday, most of that is winter break.

      10. sam_i_am*

        I get 12 days of sick leave, 24 vacation days + 1 floating holiday, paid holidays, and 2 weeks off around Xmas/New Year’s. I work for a university.

      11. Happy Camper*

        Canadian here. Unlimited sick leave, 3 weeks vacation, with the ability to take an additional 2 unpaid (comes off every paycheque so you still get paid those weeks). Plus all bank holidays. These jobs do exist!

      12. Ripley*

        I’m unionized in Canada! 18 days sick, 20 days vacation, plus special leave for bereavement, marriage, etc. kind of things.

      13. Butt in Seat*

        I just did the math to convert from hours to days… I get 13 sick days and 22 vacation per year, plus 10+ paid holidays. (Which is more than a month – amazing since it really doesn’t feel like that much since I’m always using it for myself or my kiddo being sick!) USA, private university.

      14. Public Utility Employee*

        Public utility:
        *11 company holidays (if it falls on a weekend it’s observed either Friday or Monday, or we get a floating holiday)
        *2 personal days (no manager approval needed to take these — can roll over for 1 year)
        *2 floating holidays (more can be earned if a holiday falls on a day you’re scheduled to be off — can roll over for 1 year)
        *4 weeks vacation (issued on the first day of the quarter, you can borrow against the next quarter if you need to; 40 hours can roll over. There’s a schedule for getting additional weeks after X years of employment)
        *5 weeks sick leave at 100% pay (issued on your first day with the company and refreshes every time you go 6 months without taking a full sick day — doctor note at manager’s discretion; I don’t know of any manager who regularly requires one)
        *24 weeks sick leave at 75% pay (issued your first day with the company, I’m not sure how it refreshes because I’ve never had to dip into it)

        All of these can be taken in 15 minute increments.

        Example of the sick leave: you start with the company on January 1 and have to take a full sick day on January 2; you now have 192 hours of sick leave and on June 2nd it will go back to 200 hours. Even if you take 7.75 hours of sick leave every Friday, your time refreshes on June 2nd.

        1. Public Utility Employee*

          Oops, I forgot one:
          *40 hours dependent care (company definition of “dependent” is very inclusive)
          *8 hours of volunteer time (non-company sponsored, and no one asks who/what you’re volunteering for; if you’re volunteering for a company-sponsored event you’re given a specific charge code for regular time)

      15. SpaceySteph*

        Government employees!

        Feds get 11 federal holidays (was 10 but added Juneteenth recently), and accrue 13 days sick, 13 days vacation per year (vacation accrual increases for more years of service)

      16. Parakeet*

        In my experience – nonprofits that don’t have enough money to pay their staff terribly well, but want to do right by their staff with the resources they do have. Of all the places I’ve worked (I’ve also worked in the for-profit sector and in academia), those have the best leave policies by far. I work at a place like that right now, and while I’m pretty underpaid for my skillset (my job doesn’t exist in the for-profit sector, but there are ways I could probably transfer the skills), I do very much like getting 15 days of vacation/13 holidays/10 sick days/office closed from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day.

        Mind you, they have to want to do well by their staff, or have staff who are organized enough to make demands and win concessions. Plenty of nonprofits have neither of those attributes; I’m just talking about the ones that do.

      17. Aitch Arr*

        Tech-adjacent, Boston-area.

        6 sick days, 2 floating holidays, 13 company holidays, 15 days of vacation (for the first 3 years, then increases by 1 day per year), and a paid shutdown the week between Christmas and New Years. We are allowed to carryover 2 weeks of vacation (except for states where use-it-or-lose-it is prohibited) and 6 sick days between calendar years. Sick is capped at 12 days, vacation at 1.5x one’s annual allotment. Sick and vacation start accruing again once the balances are brought under the caps.

        We also offer a paid volunteer day (employee’s choice of day and activity); for the last two years, we’ve also had an additional two days off (1 in Q2 and 1 in Q3) as a ‘thank you’ for all the hard work employees did during COVID.

    4. Snow Globe*

      I’m wondering if that “average” includes things like short-term disability. In my last job we had 5 days of sick leave, no doctors’ notes required, but if you had a serious illness that required more days off, you could get up to 25 additional days as “short term” disability. Then after 30 total days, you’d be eligible for long term disability (at 60% pay).

      1. Katie A*

        I’m sure it doesn’t. The stat probably comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (just search for BLS paid sick leave), so it’s just about paid sick leave, not short-term disability.

      2. hbc*

        I feel like a lot of businesses with one pot of PTO must answer that question with the amount of PTO. Because I’ve literally never had “sick” or “vacation” leave, but it feels disingenuous to claim that my employers have not offered me time off for sickness.

        1. Katie A*

          Nope! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 8 day average is for people who get a fixed number of sick days a year, which is about 70% of people who have access to sick leave of some kind.

          1. hbc*

            Okay, then that means that the average is totally skewed, right? It doesn’t include the tons of people who get zero, so having 1 might be better than average overall.

            1. Katie A*

              Well, about 80% of people get some kind of sick leave, whether that’s a specific number of sick days, unlimited sick leave, or a combined bucket of all leave.

              So a large majority of people get some kind of sick leave, and most of those get a certain number of days. So having 1 day is not better than the average overall, since only a fifth of peopl get no sick leave.

              I looked around for a median calculation to see if outliers might distorting things, but couldn’t find it on my quick look.

        2. Ann O’Nemity*

          The BLS has a separate stat for combined PTO buckets. Alison shared the one for companies who offer sick leave specifically.

      1. Ann O’Nemity*

        Interesting point! That average is probably getting pulled down by a large number of companies that offer zero.

        1. Katie A*

          The average only includes companies that offer a specific number of sick days. It doesn’t include ones who don’t offer any.

    5. pally*

      That’s a wow for me as well!

      A major biotech here in San Diego lists their very generous benefits package right on their Careers web page. They proudly boast a whopping 3 days of sick leave per annum.

    6. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I’ve never had 8 – I’ve worked a few places where it was one bucket, one where it was 5 days (+ 3 weeks vacation) and now I have unlimited sick time which I feel is the best way to do it.

    7. Dido*

      I have 10 and didn’t think that was all that impressive, I know a lot of people with unlimited sick time

    8. Plain Jane*

      Right?? 20ish years ago I had a job with official “sick” time, but that’s the only one. I think we had 6 days a year, they didn’t roll over. Every place since then (2 corporate jobs, 1 small non-profit, 1 large non-profit) has had a shared PTO.

  4. Eliot Waugh*

    So often the excuse businesses give for being stingy with sick leave, pay, and other basic employee protections is “well, if we’re more generous we might not make enough to stay in business”. But no one is owed a business or profits for that business. If businesses can’t stay in business while ALSO providing sick leave and a living wage, welp, too bad.

    1. Not A Manager*

      This is… extreme? I believe that “we could go out of business” is frequently a hollow excuse, but if the business *actually* closed due to generous benefits, wouldn’t that be worse for the employees? I mean, theoretically they could have just quit, but they didn’t, so they had some reason to prefer keeping that job to looking for a new one. If the business goes bust, everyone is involuntarily job-hunting.

      1. Fikly*

        No, because you are assuming that the gap that the business was filling wouldn’t be filled by a company that is competent enough to both stay in business and provide a living wage and appropriate benefits. You’re assuming that the issue is what workers need, rather than companies that fail.

        See the vast majority of Europe, which has superior standards for how employees are treated, and yet somehow manages to have companies that stay in business. Your fundamental premise that businesses would not be able to function due to what you call “generous” benefits is flawed.

        Companies get away with this nonsense in the US for two reasons: first, much of it is legal, and second, the stuff that’s illegal is incredibly hard to prove and successfully prosecute.

        1. nnn*

          Aren’t a lot of those generous benefits in Europe funded by the government? So “how they stay in business” is that they’re not paying for those things themselves.

          1. Kate in NZ*

            What? If by generous benefits you mean annual leave, statutory holidays and sick leave, no these are paid by the business.

          2. Myrin*

            It depends (on where you are – Europe doesn’t have just one set of laws as a whole! – but also on what the “benefit” is) – where I am, for example, parental leave is paid by the government, sick leave and holidays are paid by the employer, and long-term sick leave is paid by the relevant insurance company.

          3. Emmy Noether*

            This varies throughout Europe, but most commonly sick leave is partially paid by the employer and partially by health insurance. Health insurance is paid partially by the employer and partially the employee. It’s similar for other benefits (like unemployment insurance). Vacation time is of course paid by the employer.

            Also, government money doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It comes from taxes, and those come from… businesses and employees!

            The whole system is set up differently – to simplify, there’s on average less take-home pay (especially for the top earners! Poor people aren’t generally poorer), but more benefits and more safety nets. It’s a different trade-off between liquidity and risk.

          4. Flor*

            I can’t speak for all of Europe, but in the UK they’re not.

            Statutory Sick Pay, which kicks in if you’ve been sick for 3+ days in a row, is paid by the employer for up to 28 weeks. In terms of short-term, everyday illnesses or flare-ups of chronic conditions, for many (perhaps most) salaried office jobs there’s no set number of days you can take; you just tell your manager you’re ill and don’t go in, and you get paid as normal at the end of your pay period.

            The legal minimum of 4.6 weeks of paid vacation time is also paid by the employer, as is 39 weeks’ maternity leave (I think; since the government brought in shared parental leave it’s more complicated and a quick Google is providing conflicting results on pay for that one).

            There’s also a legal requirement for businesses to automatically enroll employees in a workplace pension, to which both the employee and employer contribute each pay cycle. This one I guess is “funded by the government” in the sense that the employee does get some tax relief for the money they put in, but the employer is still making contributions to the employee’s pension.

            1. Green great dragon*

              The low legally required rate of maternity pay is refunded to employers by the government. Many (most?) employers top it up to full pay themselves

              1. Flor*

                Ah, thanks for clarifying! It’s not one I’ve used personally so I am not super familiar with how it works.

          5. Tired and confused*

            Since the government is funded by taxes and taxes are relative to salary then it follows that the country needs for business to flourish in order to be able to pay things like healthcare, unemployment benefits etc. In Belgium the company pays up to a month sickleave and after that government kicks. Fun fact, I work for a US company and they pay an extra sick leave month full salary so I can take up to two months paid sick leave.

          6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            The way it mostly works is that a certain percentage of your wages are skimmed off before you get it, and this percentage is paid into a government-managed fund, then redistributed to those in need. Or it comes out of income tax. So it’s money that the employer has to earmark for the worker, it’s part of the cost of hiring them, only the worker doesn’t actually see the money in their bank account.
            Thing is, in Europe all employers have to pay generous paid leave, unlimited sick leave, retirement pensions etc. In the US, nothing is compulsory so of course a company that’s generous might not make as much of a profit as those that are stingy.
            I do believe that the mere fact that workers don’t need to worry about what will happen if they get sick helps to make the workers happy and willing to do their best in their job, so the stingy company won’t necessarily have the edge they think they have. They’ll have higher turnover for starters, and that costs money.

        2. Allonge*

          OK, so I agree that European laws around this are overall better and that the US legal situation is atrocious.

          But most US companies (certainly small firms) are not competing with European ones – they need to ‘stay in business’ when compared to another US company. And that is where this argument comes from and why it makes sense.

          Which is not to say it’s the be-all and end-all of arguments, but ignoring that will not help.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I think the point is that if *all* businesses were made to offer benefits (by law), the system would not collapse, unlike some like to pretend to scare voters. Laws are the way to make this change, not individual businesses deciding of their own accord.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Also want to add: your argument is actually one *for* legislation. The whole “if the market supported it, businesses would do it of their own accord” thing isn’t working.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                One thing being around laws has taught me is, almost all of them were made because businesses did NOT do the right thing. Greedy capitalist employers have to be FORCED to do the right thing.

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  It’s not even only the greedy capitalist employers. Even if you take a sympathetic small business owner who wants to do right: as Allonge said, they have to compete in the US market with said greedy capitalists. They can try to attract talent by being the nicer employer with better benefits, but their pay will look worse at first glance. If the law made everyone give benefits, that would level the playing field between the good employers and the evil ones.

                2. Katie A*

                  This is to Emmy Noether, ran out of replies.

                  Small business owners are also “greedy capitalist employers.”

                  But also, non-profits and government also need to be forced to treat workers right and follow safety and environmental guidelines. So it isn’t just business owning capitalists. Interestingly, there’s some evidence that certain types of government entities violate environmental law more than the private versions. It’s all a whole mess.

                3. Emmy Noether*

                  To Katie: small businesses are over-romanticised, but one doesn’t have to over generalize in the othr direction either. For example, I’ve seen some financials of peope who left their jobs to make their creative passion their business (creating sewing patterns for example). They would have earned more money staying employees, so I would hardly call them greedy. There is also barely any capital in those businesses, and the owners can’t just let their capital earn money for them, they have to actually work hard themselves.

                  I’m aware that that’s a small subset of business owners, but they do exist.

              2. doreen*

                The problem in the US is that if NY requires sick leave and vacation , etc. and NJ doesn’t a lot of businesses will just set up across the border. And I’m not hopeful about a national law when there are places that consider tourist season when setting the school calendar so that high school students are available to work at theme parks and other tourist attractions.

            2. Green great dragon*

              I didn’t read it that way, and I don’t think Eliot Waugh was necessarily saying the European system is the solution. I read it as saying that many US companies do provide decent benefits under the current system, so they’d rather see a company collapse than cut benefits to the bone, because if they collapse a company providing better benefits may pick up the trade and replace the jobs.

            3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Yeah. They said giving the workers holidays would make the economy collapse. It didn’t, we just saw the tourism industry boom.

              NB when employers say “it’ll be bad for the economy” what they mean is “it’ll be bad for me” (and sadly very few workers understand how the economy actually works so they believe the boss who surely has a better understanding of these things. They might indeed have a better understanding of how the economy works, but they don’t learn empathy at business school).

        3. münchner kindl*

          Yes, companies get away in US because the laws are in their favour – but also because so much of population has been brainwashed that:

          good people must work, otherwise they’re lazy parasites – while ignoring lazy incompetents who just inherit a few million and then don’t need to work

          the needs of the business are more important than the needs of human employees

          treating the human employees with basic decency, like living wages, paid sick leave, enough vacation, will ruin the business

          all of which is false (as you said, all of Europe disproves it for decades), yet as long as the majority believes it, there’s not enough political pressure to change the laws, or social pressure to change business practices.

          Imagine if every business owner who exploits their workers is socially ostracized, instead of celebrated as job creator/ genius, that would change things, too.

          1. Katie A*

            That’s not really right. It isn’t necessary for the majority to believe these things. All you need is for politicians to fail to push for better laws and regulations and for the majority of people to either prioritize other things in their advocacy/voting or to just not engage with trying to change things politically.

            It’s also the case that most people do get leave of some kind, most don’t feel especially beaten down by their employers, and most make enough money/their household makes enough money to have their needs met (maybe not to save or buy homes, but to get the basics). That reduces the sense of urgency for those people, so the people who are in bad situations don’t have as many motivated allies who have more time/money/connections.

            1. doreen*

              I don’t think people really understand how important your second paragraph is – if most people didn’t earn enough money to meet their needs , didn’t get any paid time off , or felt mistreated by their employers while their employers were rich, there would be a revolution. If not a violent one, at least at the polls. But people who are mostly satisfied with their pay or time off are not generally going to prioritize those issues when they vote. And people live in bubbles – I can’t count how many times I’ve had to tell my unionized, public employee coworkers that private companies can fire you for any reason or no reason ( just not an illegal reason). If you think everyone who works full-time gets paid time off , then it’s not an issue that will affect your vote.

            2. Nancy*

              So true, it’s not because we are all ‘brainwashed.’ It’s because plenty of people do have what they need, and most do not know what goes on outside their own industry or what the labor policies are in other states.

              1. Nancy*

                To add to that, I think this has been changing over the past few years because this topic is more in the news now. So people are becoming more aware.

          2. Neutral Janet*

            All of Europe? Are you sure? Every single company in each of the 51 countries in Europe offer generous sick leave and vacation time and a living wage to all employees?

            You can make a point about American working conditions without insulting American workers and way over-generalizing the rest of the world.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              A living wage, no, but the sick leave and minimum vacation time are required by law, so yes on those counts.

        4. Colette*

          I think there’s a difference between legally mandated minimum vacation and sick time and expecting one business to offer a certain level of vacation and sick time while competing against businesses that don’t. (It’s the same with pay.)

          If a company fails and is replaced by another company, that doesn’t necessary help the people left unemployed by the first company – they may or may not be hired by the second company. It may be more beneficial to the society as a whole, but it’s not necessarily better for those employees.

      2. Sabine*

        Maybe this can be put this way: if you can’t do better than breaking even just by giving a living wage, reasonable sick days, and reasonable vacation, then you can’t afford to hire anybody full-time. There are business costs like paying for raw materials or rent for your store, and you have to make sure the benefits of hiring outweigh these costs of hiring humans. If you can’t make your business run without treating your employees horribly, you have to find a different solution. Change your line of work, or maybe buy a bunch of robots instead, then don’t need vacation (though they do get sick, my car and computer definitely do).

      3. Irish Teacher*

        I don’t think it’s extreme at all. Yeah, it’s bad if somewhere goes out of business but things like sick leave are a cost of doing business, just like paying rent on the building, buying supplies, paying electricity, paying delivery costs, etc. The reality is if you can’t afford the cost of doing business, your business fails. I don’t see that as extreme. It’s just the reality. And if “we could go out of business if we paid our rent, so our landlord has to let us have the business rent-free” or “well, we could go out of business if we used the equipment required to meet safety standards so we have to use substandard equipment” aren’t accepted as excuses, why is a different standard applied to under-paying workers or denying them benefits?

        I don’t think anybody would say it was extreme to say that if a business can’t afford its rent, it goes out of business or if it can’t afford its supplies and I don’t see any difference between those situations and this.

        A lot of businesses fail; that’s just the reality. And when weighing up the costs of whether to start a business or not, one presumably includes the cost of labour.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          And honestly, one could argue it would be worse for the landlord if the business went out of business and wasn’t paying them rent any more either, but that would never be used to argue that the business should be able to pay less rent than they owe.

        2. I Have RBF*

          This is true.

          I own a really tiny business. I do not have any employees, it’s all me and my spouse. I would have to be making, after tax, enough money to afford to hire even a part time employee, and have to have a plan for how to sustain that or grow it. Plus my own time for the creative/production part of the business would be less, because I’d now have to manage someone and handle payroll. If the person was doing more than just sales, I’d have to train them on how I do things. I’d have to have a storefront, and make enough stock to populate it, etc. Not going to happen, so I don’t hire employees to help with my very part-time side gig.

      4. bamcheeks*

        I think this kind of thinking– a business which can’t afford to pay generous benefits and wages is still better than no business– is exactly how you get downward pay pressure, ever-decreasing wages at the bottom end, and wealth constantly moving up towards the already-wealthy. THat business isn’t just affecting its own staff, it’s also creating a downward pressure on all the other businesses which are trying to compete with it. I think it’s way better if they go out of business and their customers go to other providers who treat their staff better, and ultimately those providers hire more people. “A job without benefits is better than no job at all” is how you end up with working poverty and a society split between entrenched extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

    2. Siege*

      I work in an industry (unions) that has been under attack since 2018 and it impacts our membership and revenue. We are in the red and running a deficit budget, and we STILL get four weeks vacation, 13 holidays, 3 personal days, and I want to say we accrue sick time in a separate bank at a little over a day a month. We get a COLA every year, and my healthcare is 100% employer-paid with a $1500 deductible.

      If we can do it, for-profits have no excuse.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Won’t someone think of the SHAREHOLDERS?? You really want Monocle McMoneybags to have to settle for a regular yacht, not a superyacht?

      1. Dr. Doll*

        so what’s the union doing for money long term? to be clear I don’t think your time off is the problem, but how does a long term budget deficit work, who are you borrowing from?

        curious cause we’re about to go on strike.

        1. Siege*

          We’re doing extremely aggressive organizing and will have brought in five new units, two of them large, by the end of the year. Last year we made two really significant legislative gains that benefit labor and our members. We also lost one and it’s having impacts on how my state’s arm of ALEC is reaching our members but the losses there are not looking significant thus far. Our state is union-friendly, so that helps. We have one full-time position unfilled (a management-level role) and have hired a contractor for another. We have rented out space in our office (we’re primarily remote) to an organization doing a short-term campaign in our area. We’ve shifted some of our expensive events to online only, in part because it’s a PITA to get people to agree to drive anywhere. I believe we did one small transfer out of reserves last year but have been able to hold steady this year and it should look better next year as those new units come fully aboard and start paying dues.

  5. Catherine*

    OP1, I think it’s a problem to “earn” leave over the course of the year. A flu in January will put employees in the negative before they accrue anything. Is it possible to roll the sick leave allowance over with the start of the calendar year?

    1. Joron Twiner*

      I agree, the nature of sick leave means it doesn’t make sense to “earn” it with tenure.

      Personally I think all leave should be granted up front at the beginning of the period and allowed to roll over at least until the next year. Most workers are adults who can manage their time off. This allows them to take time off when they get sick in January, or when they go on vacation in February–and encourages them not to take all their time off in December, or hoard their sick days and come in sick and infect everyone.

      In short, they can take time off properly, and focus on their work.

    2. tokyo salaryman*

      Sick (and regular) leave accrual is common in some countries like Australia, although you’re right in that most companies allow you to roll over a certain amount each year. Getting sick as a newbie to the company sucks since you either need to take unpaid leave or go into the negatives.

      1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

        At my job (union), we have 130 days of sick leave available per year, resetting annually. What changes is the amount paid at 70% and the amount paid at 100%. For the first 3 months, any sick leave is paid at 70%, and then it increases incrementally until 5 years, when 60 days are available at 100% and 70 days at 70%, and that’s where it stays for the remainder of your time at the job.

        Functionally, it’s kind of sick leave and short term disability rolled into one. Past 130 days, coverage comes from a long term disability pot.

        Our handbook doesn’t have a specific doctors note requirement, just that reasonable documentation may be requested, particularly for long absences.

      2. WS*

        Only since 2010 in Australia! Before that it was 10 days per year with no carryover. Now it carries over but isn’t paid out when you leave like holiday leave is.

        1. Part time lab tech*

          I’m pretty sure holiday leave is considered part of your renumeration in Australia so that’s why it’s paid out. I’m not sure about the 2010 thing though because I’m pretty sure in most Australian companies allowed you to accumulate sick leave before that even if it doesn’t get paid out when you leave. Then there’s long service leave.

      3. allibys*

        The best thing about Australian leave practices is long service leave, which I didn’t realise is not a worldwide thing.

        1. Darlingpants*

          It’s leftover from when you’d need to take months and month and months off to sail back to England. Not so applicable to most of the world.

          1. kalli*

            Plus outside of certain industries where it’s so common to not have long service (construction and similar) that a fund exists to carry leave between jobs, if you don’t stay for at least 8-9 years you see none of it anyway. I have ten years service, but not at the one company or in the one industry so I don’t get LSL. I also don’t earn LSL currently because I’m casual and use my casualness just enough to avoid being made permanent (flexible start times on short notice) and my employer only just crossed the threshold for mandatory conversion offers anyway. My dad got LSL only when he was made redundant and the company paid everyone out LSL as if it was regular vacation time for everyone over 40, rather than if they met the criteria to be paid out early or had qualified. As more jobs are casualised or made rolling contracts, not to mention the gig economy, LSL gets rarer.

    3. Ana Gram*

      I agree. My employer gives 40 hours of leave when you start and then you earn additional each pay period. But we can also carry over so that’s extremely helpful.

    4. Melissa*

      Good point. I work for a huge healthcare conglomerate that is generous with PTO. And you get it when you start— no waiting period.

  6. Msd*

    I’m not sure I agree with “let him fail” advice if it does impact production and the team’s reputation with customers. It’s been my experience that management often says they will accept actions that have risks until the risk happens. Then suddenly the result is unacceptable, all previous acceptance of risk is forgotten and blame is placed (which will most likely be on the LW). At a minimum I would go back to the manager again, point out the risks again and get in writing that they are supposed to let the person fail and what will be considered “failure”. Is it the loss of a major customer? I’d also really push on why the manager is not putting the person on a performance plan.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the husband’s immediate manager’s hands are tied on firing him until she has transferred the pain of his bad work onto upper management. So long as someone else compensates and upper management only gets the good stuff, they see no need to change.

    1. mlem*

      The company might require a specific failure in order to start a PIP process. If the team lead is, effectively, doing this guy’s job for him, his performance metrics might look acceptable. And freeing the team lead up for that many hours *per day* might well let the *team* still succeed, frankly.

      1. Msd*

        Except I would argue that the technical lead has many examples of how the person is under performing/failing. The fact that he has to spend so much time with him is the guy failing. A PIP usually isn’t begun until other steps have been taken….. documented conversations, written warnings etc that lead to a PIP. It doesn’t sound like the manager is actively working with the lead to start the process.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          ^ this

          It sounds like the manager has abdicated managing the new hire … and LW’s husband right along side of the bad engineer.

          1. Knope Knope Knope*

            I disagree that the manager has abdicated managing the new hire. Unless I am missing some nuance in the title “technical lead” it sounds like these two are coworkers with a shared manager. Imagine being the manager and having this conversation with the new hire. “Hey there! Your team is doing great. Your products are all on time and great quality. But Technical Lead says you’re not very good at your job and that all of your work that looks good to me was actually done by him so I am just going to take his word for it and fire you.”

            Letting them fail means letting the manager actually see and assess the quality of new hires work without Technical Lead stepping in to cover for them.

            I am team let them fail.

      2. Elle by the sea*

        This guy isn’t PIP material- he’s fire immediately material. PIP is for people whose performance has slipped and there is a relatively straightforward way to correct it. I always read about extreme low performers being kept on for years, but have never seen this happen in real life. In fact, it shouldn’t happen.

        1. House On The Rock*

          How much the manager and/or HR can do really depends on the employer. I work somewhere that is very process heavy and risk averse and even putting someone on a PIP requires them to be at level where they’d likely be fired elsewhere. Also, if the employer is at all concerned about the possibility of a discrimination claim they may want extreme failure and business impact to demonstrate the problem.
          In a previous job, I saw someone get to the end of a PIP, fail, and when the manager tried to move forward with termination was told by HR she hadn’t completed the process correctly and she had to start over (she had no guidance from HR or higher ups previously, which is a whole other issue). I inherited that employee and had to manage them out. It was awful.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            That’s so common, but terrible practice and, in my opinion, an abuse of PIP and a waste of resources. Never understood the rationale behind such company policies. Is it the fear of getting sued for lack of due process?

      3. Lenora Rose*

        “I can document that I, not he, did X, Y and Z job items, other team members competed A,B, and C, and he only completed J independently” should be more than enough to prove his performance metrics aren’t fine even if nothing actually crashes in the meantime.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      The manager might need this person to fail to be allowed to put them on a PIP in the first place. Right now, they’re not failing because LW’s partner is propping them up, so there’s nothing demonstrable the manager can use to support their case to HR that they need a PIP.

      If the employee is put on a PIP by the manager without any documentation of them not actually doing their job or not doing it right (which is difficult to get when another employee is covering for them completely), they’d have every right to complain to HR and get that PIP canceled. The manager might even end up in hot water if they tried that.

      If the manager is asking LW’s partner to let this person fail, they likely know how the system works at their company and know what failure will entail and the effect it will have. They’ve likely determined those consequences worth it to be able to do something about a problem employee.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        That OP is spending 3-4 hours a day propping them up ought to be enough to demonstrate the case for firing.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Without real evidence of what the person would do wrong without help, it’s hard to make a solid case. It’s like the big problem in Minority Report: we may know the person is almost definitely going to commit a crime in the future, but we can’t prove it unless they actually do.

    3. Kell*

      I read it as the help he’s getting from LW’s husband is probably keeping him just above water for needing a performance plan. Manager probably wants to let him fail so that she’ll have something concrete to document on a plan.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this. There is immense effort in making him not fail, effort disproportionate to the cause. Let him fail, hire someone competent, everyone wins long term. OP’s husband should not be more invested in the success of this guy than he himself.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > OP’s husband should not be more invested in the success of this guy than he himself.

          I don’t think he is invested in the success of that employee for its own sake, but rather for the impact on the company, production, quality of customer deliverables, etc. This goes especially so if they are member of a professional body (could be software engineering, or other engineering like civil etc) and have an ethical code they have to adhere to, particularly since they are in a position of responsibility (lead) – And even without membership of a professional body, there’s still arguably an ethical and moral obligation on them not to let a project fail just for the sake of proving someone needs to go on a PIP. I agree with the “OP” of this thread.

    4. münchner kindl*

      I would make very very sure to have everything in writing, especially his manager telling him to let problem employee fail.

      If manager can’t start a PIP or firing without obvious failure, there is no guarantee that if employee fails, they won’t take the easy route and blame it on partner as technical lead who’s responsible for problem employee.

      After all, if manglement did things right, the problem wouldn’t have gone that far, so why would a big failure compel them to do it right?

      Also, start job-searching. If manglement is mis-managing the bad employee and letting partner alone with the stress for 2 years (!), that’s bad for partner’s career. That’s 2 years where partner couldn’t excel in his own projects because of time and energy wasted on bad employee. 2 years of growth missed. And who knows how many years of missed opportunities to advance, because his manager didn’t bat for partner.

      Plus: this business is not stable, if manglement needs a failure to actually (maybe) manage. How much damage beyond a one-time hit will open failure for this one employee cause in the future? Enough clients withdraw, then employees will have to be let go because work is shrinking.

      1. Heather*

        it’s also 2 years where the partner has been ignoring his boss’s advice and bent over befor backward to cover for this guy though..

      2. ecnaseener*

        I’m wondering if the manager was even aware of the issue for those 2 years. Or was partner essentially covering for this person (not lying for them, but just quietly doing what needed to be done until they finally recently told the manager)?

        1. ecnaseener*

          Never mind, I just read the letter again and saw they raised the issue a year ago. I am still curious if they sugarcoated just how much extra work they’ve been doing for this person.

    5. Jade*

      Agree. I’d tell my coworker to go to his manager with his questions. Bad situation. I’d want all of this in writing and I’m heavily assuming they won’t.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes. It’s not even the Husband’s job to manage this guy. Husband needs to stop caring more about the company than his own manager does. Husband is concerned about productivity and team reputation — but that is not his job to make sure those things happen, outside of his own area of work. He’s burning out because he’s not staying in h is lane. Sounds harsh. But the solution is right there, not his job to do save this guy, he has explicit permission to not save the guy, so he needs to stop trying to save the guy.

    6. CYA ASAP*

      100% — LW2 is shouldering all of the responsibility for managing this bad employee out of the organization with none of the power and protection of a supervisory position.

      You have to tread super-carefully here to avoid getting burned when the bill comes due for the failure. It’s naive to think that one’s boss (or their bosses) will not tie everything around your neck to save their own. It won’t matter much if LW2 gets this in writing, in my experience. And since LW2’s boss is already delegating this responsibility out, they are more likely to delegate the blame, too.

      Best way to thread the needle is to find ways to let this engineer fail that only have internal fallout and can be fixed before the work leaves LW2’s office.

      1. higheredadmin*

        Yes – definitely something here in picking the project that the person is going to fail on. Or, something I’ve done (as a manager in an org where the person has to really FUBAR something before we can move to termination) let the fail but have a plan in place to mop it up in the nick of time. E.g. – send the thing to whoever approves it all messed up, let them blow their top, and then be ready with “here it is fixed”. So look at timelines etc and build in that mop up time between when you show the failure and when it is actually due. I can totally see how the manager got stuck – he feels bad for the new guy, he just needs training… And by the time he realizes that it is a bigger issue it is very far along.

    7. kiki*

      I think it’s worth clarifying what “let him fail” means in this context. I wonder if there’s a middle ground with letting him fail between “let something so bad happen that the company loses a customer” and “step back far enough to allow this employee’s incompetence to show to more people.” Right now, is LW’s husband’s boss able to actually see how poorly this engineer is doing? Or is LW intervening so much and so early to help that it seems like the engineer is getting everything done they need to (albeit getting a lot of help).

      It seems like LW’s husband is spending HOURS per week with this engineer. What happens if he cuts that back to a single hour? The employee will probably miss some internal deadlines. But is it possible to pad those deadlines so clients are unaffected even if employee fails to meet the deadline? LW doesn’t want to deliver a bad final product built by the engineer, but maybe the engineer can demo his work internally so leadership sees how bad it is.

      There are ways to let somebody fail without risking the company and I think that’s a happy medium worth finding.

    8. Lab Boss*

      That would be my worry too- I’m dealing with a similar situation right now, where a tough decision ended up not paying off and I’m now being grilled about why I did it. I even have all the e-mails saved where people above me made the tough decision (that didn’t work) over my recommendation to to something else (which might have worked), and I’m STILL catching blame for doing “the wrong thing.”

      The problem is that I, like LW’s partner, only has so much wiggle room when there’s a specific instruction coming from management. In his shoes I’d just make sure to have the “let them fail” conversation via e-mail to get it documented, and then document-document-document ways in which the deadweight guy is failing, causing problems, creating hurdles, etc. Hopefully this is just a case where the manager needs proof of failure for a PIP/Termination, but if it breaks bad he’ll have a lot of material to support himself. The bottom line is that it’s just not sustainable to keep disobeying management AND bending over backward to keep deadweight afloat.

      1. Engineery*

        Agreed. In this case and in the previous letter, I think Allison has a naive view about how engineering project management works. When a project I’m responsible goes poorly, that directly affects my compensation and my standing in both my company and the industry as a whole. It makes no difference *why* the project failed – my reputation takes the hit regardless.

        Ultimately, “let my team member fail” is a new project requirement – it’s a substantial change in how I’m to manage my resources. I need a Scope Change document to fulfill it. That will formalize the exact method by which I should let my team member fail. Should I give them busy work and move their tasks to another person? I need to budget for that new person. Should I give them actual important work and let the project be negatively affected? That’s going to increase my budget and push back my timeline. I need my boss to explicitly tell me what specific company resources I’m to spend to “let my team member fail.” That way, my project can be successful regardless – I’m accepting the new requirement of spending company resources to “let a team member fail” and all stakeholders sign off on the new timeline and budget.

        If my boss doesn’t want to put all that in writing, perhaps because it would negatively impact my boss’s reputation for wanting to do something so patently idiotic, that’s a pretty good indicator I’m meant to be left out to dry if and when the whole plan goes sideways.

        I regularly get requests to do something dumb, and told “Don’t worry about it, you won’t be responsible.” I don’t fall for that any more. Run it through the approval process, which is specifically meant to capture terrible ideas like this before they do damage.

        1. Lab Boss*

          It’s not exactly the same as the processes and documents you’re listing, but my company is in the midst of adding a lot more layers of formal decision making and approval due to growth. I am absolutely loving the fact that I can now sit on my hands and refuse to act on undocumented instructions until they’ve gone through the correct channels for documentation, justification, and approval. Especially the part about “which specific company resources am I to spend” to do this new surprise instruction.

    9. ferrina*

      This can be necessary when you are working with extremely passive management. They won’t act until it impacts the bottom line. So you need to let them feel the full impact of their inaction. These folks tend to take the path of least effort.

      Right now, OP’s husband is taking away the impetus for them to act. He’s taking on the burden himself, leaving management free to do nothing and have a status quo that works for them. If he withdraws his extra work, the status quo changes in a way that the management can feel.
      Of course, OP’s husband needs to CYA in a major way. Document everything, enlist the boss, see if there is an extra project that can divert OP’s husband’s time. Document the support resources given to the engineer (email everything) and the manager needs to be ready to go to bat. OP’s husband should assign clear components to the failing engineer so it’s very, very clear where the blame lies.

      Sometimes that will spur the needed action, and everyone can move on with their lives. Sometimes the management will lash out, which is where OP’s husband’s manager will need to stand strong. Good luck!

    10. Mill Miker*

      Ugh. Yeah, I’ve been there before. “Let them fail” but also, as the lead, the success and failure of the project is ultimately on you, so “let them fail”, but still make sure the team meets all it’s deadlines, obligations, and expectations. Don’t let the project fail.

      Or, “let them fail” and then pull a ton of overtime because you’re responsible for cleaning up the mess.

      1. higheredadmin*

        Agree that this is what it will take. However, it is hopefully short-term agony to end a long-term problem. I think OP needs to realize that he will need to be doing clean up and plan appropriately.

      2. Anon4This*

        I’ve been on the other end of it, in a job where for some reason I was assigned for 50% of my time to a project in a highly technical field I had zero experience in. Think something along the lines of radar engineering with my background being in computational biology (this is not exactly what it was, I’m just trying to give a sense of scale while preserving anonymity. I literally begged the department director, as well as my project supervisors, to switch me to something, anything else. I told them repeatedly that I didn’t know how to do this. I was told (paraphrased, but not as much as I wish it were) “We hire smart people, and smart people should be able to learn any project we do.” They had someone spend a day writing and running scripts I’d never heard of while I watched, and called this “coaching.” I went home and cried every day.

        I got put on a PIP that was very much “set up to fail” after about six months, and got another job while I was on that PIP. The job was clearly a bad fit! But the thing that was really demoralizing about it was that the performance review and text of the PIP were dressing me down at length about how I’d damaged our reputation with the client. It never occurred to me before this thread that they might have been waiting until there was actual damage for them to attribute to me. It would have been better for everyone involved if they’d offered a negotiated exit months earlier. I was pretty young (25) when this happened, and I felt so guilty, for so long, that I had caused damage. And so frustrated that I had begged for intervention, for a transfer, anything, and been brushed off.

        All that is to say, I don’t think it should be on LW2’s partner to cover for the coworker. But I also think companies should rethink the policies that produce this kind of situation. If someone’s that bad at the job, don’t require that they flounder until they cause damage and then castigate them for the damage. It’s not fair to the manager, the client, or the employee.

  7. CL*

    If you have to ask “ do we offer enough sick leave?”, the answer is almost always NO. Most people who are being managed properly aren’t padding their vacations with sick days. They are using their days when they are sick.

    1. DJ Hymnotic*

      Just wanted to reply to affirm this–that stingy PTO very often doesn’t simply come from a concern for financial sustainability, but from a place of distrust of your employees. The PTO my employer offers for most rank-and-file employees is pretty much identical to that of the OP’s employer (except we get significantly fewer holidays), and my employer finds lots of other ways to communicate that TPTB don’t trust us peons. My previous employer offered just three paid sick days a year, and they 100% didn’t trust us even though my coworkers and I proved ourselves time and again to be a scrupulously honest crew.

      I’m not saying that’s the attitude of the OP’s employer, but as it’s a) a small employer, and b) trying to expand and grow, the perception seems worth noting. Prospective employees who ask about PTO in interviews will certainly take note and many may wonder what’s behind that policy.

    2. Rebecca*

      Five days is one bout of covid, or one round of me getting a stomach bug just as my kid gets over his. That’s less than one sick day every other month; I would be in the negative so fast

  8. Sophie K*

    LW 1: Worth mentioning that at my last two jobs, sick time has been granted all at once for the year, while vacation accrues each pay period. This strikes me as fair since people can’t plan their illnesses the way you plan a vacation. If you get COVID the first week of the leave year there’s not much you can do about it for example.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Though vacation accrual would also seem problematic to me – doesn’t that mean that everyone is trying to take their leave towards the end of the year, causing coverage issues?

      1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        I think it’s ideally /usually vacation accrual with tenure, but it rolls over. (If it doesn’t roll over that’s where you get end of year problems.)

        1. CL*

          Which is why 4 of our 8 department leads are out this week and their deputies are all taking a week or more between now and January 1.

      2. KateM*

        Where I worked, vacation time was accrued but you could “borrow” a bit, and I don’t think it disappeared at Jan 1st.

      3. WellRed*

        Vocation accrual, if you must do it that way, should start upon hiring, and start then going forward so it’s not a calendar year crunch.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Not every place allows rollover. A lot of places are use it or lose it.

          The problem with accruing it is what if something comes up and you want to take a trip in January (people do for a variety of reasons). You go negative right away. Then of course, you have hoarding because you want to save it for when you need it. Give people their entire vacation for the year up front, let them decide how to use it.

      4. ThatGirl*

        Typically accrual is because of company finances – it’s a liability on the books, and if, say, 100 people all had 3 weeks of vacation on the books on Jan 1 it would be a much bigger impact to the bottom line. It also affects payouts for people leaving, in states where that’s a law.

        But everywhere I’ve worked allowed me to go “negative” if needed, with the understanding that (at least in theory) if I left before I had re-accrued that time I would “owe” it to the company.

        (I’ve also never been able to roll over, save 1 company that let you roll over 5 days into Q1 only)

      5. Governmint Condition*

        For us, we have accruals where we earn both sick and vacation time every pay period. We have a cap on vacation that it takes a couple of years to reach if you don’t take any. The sick leave cap would require about 15 years to reach. For vacation, you are allowed to go over the cap, as long as you get back down to the target by a specific date. Interestingly, the date is April 1 for most staff, but January 1 for high-level managers. (So managers often take a lot of time around Christmas.)

  9. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    The problem of including holidays, leaving early on Fridays, and the low staffed July and December weeks when you look at this is that those are all dictated time off. Sick leave is the opposite of that. It’s unique to each person, unplanned, and emergency.

    Unless you’ll allow them to use PTO to cover sick days—in which case just make it all the same bucket of time (which is easier to manage for you)— the amount of vacation days, holidays, etc. really shouldn’t factor into the discussion at all.

    1. WellRed*

      I think it’s fair for OP to point that out as a way to show they aren’t total ogres. They do value time off but the unplanned time humans need is something they need to look at.

      1. LW#1*

        Yes- that’s why I pointed that out I didn’t want people to think I was terrible! I hope the other benefits are generous or atleast adequate. They will get three weeks of paid vacation after one year, 4 after 5 years.

  10. John Smith*

    Re #2. Definitely let the colleague fail. The consequences are theirs and their manager’s, not your husband’s. I have a colleague who is constantly covering my grossly inept boss’ backside and it causes no end of grief and low morale having to experience his continued existence as a manager and the mounds of additional unecessary work that comes with it. Also, where’s the colleague’s / your husband’s manager in all of this? They should be the one addressing the lack of performance imho. Just make sure your husband has all the issues and steps he’s taken documented in case blame does come his way. That way he can demonstrate he’s done everything he can to train his colleague and not just let things slide (believe me, there are plenty of managers who will play a blame game – my office is full of them!). Wishing your husband best of luck.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This seems like a tricky situation to me, because OP’s partner is correct that letting the colleague fail might damage the company’s reputation if projects don’t get done on time and it’s because no one is completing the work that has been assigned to the failing colleague. I get that letting the higher-ups at the company see how badly that colleague is doing might lead the higher-ups to reassess whether they should continue to employ that colleague (hint: they should not), but I can also see a situation where the higher-ups don’t actually care that it was the colleague who dropped the ball and will instead blame OP’s partner and partner’s manager. I don’t necessarily trust that the higher-ups will actually see the situation as it is, nor that they won’t blame OP’s partner even if they do see it correctly. But if OP’s partner follows AAM’s advice and tells his manager that he will no longer be covering for his colleague, perhaps he will be okay; perhaps the manager will be able to vouch for OP’s partner and explain to the higher-ups what is really going on. (Although I’m unclear as to why the manager hasn’t done so already or why the higher-ups aren’t listening to the manager about it.)

      I’d also advise OP’s partner to ask his manager if it’s ok for him to completely stop doing any training for this colleague. OP said that he’s asked many time to be moved but it’s not clear that OP’s partner has actually asked if he can stop training and start focusing again only on the technical aspects of the job that he was hired for and enjoys doing. I’d be wary for him to tell the manager that the training is making him absolutely miserable, but there might be a more diplomatic but firm way to discuss it with the manager. Apologies to OP if your partner has already done this, but I thought I’d mention it just in case he hadn’t.

      Also: I would really like a follow-up to this question. I’m fascinated by a company who tells someone to let an employee fail rather than just getting rid of them when it becomes clear that person can’t do the job they are supposed to do.

      1. John Smith*

        In my experience, it’s usually tge person who let’s someone else fail that somehow gets the blame.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Right, that’s what I’m talking about. So if OP’s partner lets colleague fail, OP’s partner may very well get the blame rather than partner’s manager or the higher-ups if it’s a customer who is doing the blaming.

        2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

          Not always. The manager has made it clear to let the guy fail, if they are a decent manager they aren’t going to punish OP’s partner.

          Also, as someone who’s involved on the business side of tech development, we almost always know which engineers are the reason for delays. External stakeholders might be tricker since they likely don’t know the ins and outs of tech development. But internally, I think most already know.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        Bringing up the excessive training seems like a good way to address this, actually; an email from OP’s partner to their boss saying, “As discussed, I need to step back drastically from the number of hours I’ve been spending training Ulysses S. Useless so that I can give the rest of the team the support they deserve. From now on I’ll be….[meeting with him only once a week; addressing technical problems only; no longer offering basic computer support; whatever makes sense].”

        That’s a positive framing. OP’s partner isn’t refusing to help Ulysses; they’re just making sure they’re SUPPORTING THE TEAM.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Excellent point, Shirley. So although I do think the partner should discuss it with their manager first, they also should put it all in writing so they have a paper trail for CYA purposes.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Another thought I’m having thanks to Shirley’s comment is that maybe OP’s partner could ask if his manager would be willing to take over training Ulysses (love that name!). Again, he may have already asked this, but he could also frame it as, “I’ve been training Ulysses for a long time now and obviously whatever methods I’m using aren’t the best teaching style for Uly. Maybe he would learn everything better from someone who has a different style.” That way he’s saying that it might not be that Uly is totally useless (note: Uly is totally useless) but rather that whatever OP’s partner is doing isn’t the right solution to the problem and maybe there’s a better solution out there. (That this solution involved OP’s partner no longer doing the part of the job he hates is only a minor (major) coincidence….)

  11. Isabel Archer*

    I currently work for a company that offers unlimited sick days. On the honor system, no less! And by that I mean no one is keeping track. They also start all new employees at 3 weeks of paid vacation plus 5 personal days. So when they told me about the unlimited sick time it was like hearing they had a unicorn in the break room. What I’ve learned after 2 years is that nobody really abuses this. If someone is sick, it is what it is and they take the time they need to recover and come back to the office healthy. Obviously an extended illness is something you would make your manager and team aware of so that they could make arrangements for covering your responsibilities, but nobody’s counting the days you use. After two full years of working here, here’s what I’ve learned about such a policy. An employer that offers unlimited sick time recognizes that no one can control or predict how often or how severely they may become ill in the course of a year (aka, REALITY). And when you treat your employees like trustworthy adults, and don’t try to police every minute of their sick time or withhold their pay, people don’t take advantage of it. It’s a real game-changer.

    1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

      I also remember the culture shock when I went from a company of 6 sick days per year to a policy of “If you’re sick, you don’t work”! And yes, in my experience, people are much more likely to *want* to work when you treat them like trustworthy adults. And they’re more likely to want to work *for you*.

      At my first company, I just started skimping on checkups, because I wanted to save my sick days for unexpected sickness, didn’t want to use my vacation bucket on checkups, and wasn’t always in the mood to make up the time. Especially since I don’t drive, which adds to the transit time for appointments. Once I started working for a company that cared more about my work output than about the odd afternoon off, I resumed getting my teeth cleaned every 6 months!

      1. Elle by the sea*

        Our company has a 5 sick days policy but in reality, you can extend it. I usually don’t even use up those five days, but during the Covid season, I fell sick for a week because of the vaccine and then later for two weeks with Covid. I was allowed to take more days off. So probably it’s worth asking if the 5 days are extendable – it’s often the case that you get 5 days only because that’s the country/state standard.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          That seems like a highly problematic way to do it to me. For one, it will depend on the whims of the manager/HR person/whoever approves the extra leave, and will vary across departments. It also disadvantages those who don’t know or don’t dare to ask. It’s just a setup for inequitable treatment in every way.

      2. lilsheba*

        This is so true. It’s much easier to have dr appointments and things when you don’t have to worry about being punished for taking the time to do it. Also ….we are still in a pandemic, covid is still running rampant due to no one taking precautions, and the reality is each time you get covid you get sicker for longer and you pick up every other virus out there due to being compromised. Let people take as many sick days as they need!

    2. Rachel*

      I’m really glad it is working out for you.

      I do think some industries struggle with this and it isn’t because the C-suite is composed of big meanies who want a new yacht. It’s just that this set up does not translate to every single job ever.

      It works for your organization and that’s awesome, of course.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Yes, my company also has unlimited sick time with no tracking, and it’s beautiful. They do sometimes ask people for a dr’s note if it’s going to be more than 3 days, and longer-term things like recovery from surgery can bring short-term disability into the discussion. But if you need a day here for a migraine and a day there for a sick kid and four days off for the flu, no problem.

    4. Salsa Your Face*

      My workplace is similar–no one tracks your sick time, take it when you need it. Also, don’t bother using sick time/PTO for scheduled doctor’s appointments, just block off your calendar and go. In the last year, I’ve taken maybe 2.5 sick days and had 4 doctor’s appointments that I took ~2-3 hours off for each. I’m going to be needing surgery soon and I’ve been instructed to not even THINK about using my PTO for recovery time, just document the days off I’ll need with HR in case it turns into a short-term disability situation.

      I absolutely agree with you that it comes down to trust. Your employees are adults. Treat them as such. They’ll reward you by caring about their jobs and doing good work.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was fortunate enough to work in a place with unlimited sick leave for most of my career, and in 30 years, I only met two people who took advantage of the policy. They were both problematic overall and got let go for other reasons.

      It’s a good policy for everyone, not just people with chronic illnesses. When people with acute illnesses stay home, no one else gets sick. When people with kids can stay home to deal with the sick kids, fewer people are stressed and distracted. When people can take off a day to get all of their wellness checks done, people can take better care of themselves.

      When I worked for a place that had limited sick time, *more* people called in sick than in the place with unlimited sick time because the sick days became a commodity that you could lose. Almost everyone would call in sick in November and December because the days were use it or lose it, and they wanted to travel for holidays. Then you get into nonsense like asking for doctor’s notes from adults, and people being asked to give their sick days over to a coworker with a chronic condition. This is why I hate that places came up with PTO where everything is all in one bucket. That is just a way of screwing people out of vacation days because who can plan a vacation when you need to save days in case you get sick?

  12. NorwegianTree*

    That sound extremely low for both sick and vacation. I am biased though, since I am used to norwegian standard of mandated minimum of 4 weeks and 1 day vacation (and most companies offer 5 weeks), as well as 12 days of sick leave where maximum of 3 consecutive days before you need a doctors note, and maximum of 4 times a year, but if you get a doctors note you can of course be away for far longer. Sick leave is paid leave. But it is good to hear from Allison that it is too low in the US as well.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      In the US you cannot necessarily get an appointment with a doctor within 3 days – especially since the pandemic, when health care here took a massive hit and we lost many practitioners to retirement or worse – it can take two weeks at minimum (if you are very lucky) depending on what area of the country you live in (we have some ‘medical deserts’ here and the number are growing, sadly) it may take even longer. I have to book standard appointments with my GP a minimum of 6 months in advance, specialists even longer, and when sick often have to go to a walk in clinic and wait multiple hours to be seen. Not fun when quite ill. I had thought the doctor’s note requirement was outdated and dying off, but if Norway still requires one I assume that means you have better access to immediate health care than we do.

  13. RockyFan*

    I’m over 40, and on the rare occasion I hear someone say “how do you do”, my brain immediately goes “I see you’ve met my faithful handyman”.

    1. Fluff*

      “You like you’re both pretty groovy”

      Oh my brain, please do not pop that out at the next networking meeting. :-)

    2. Caliente Papillon*

      Aaargh I was dying to see this around Halloween, it has been sooo long for me! Luckily I’m in myc so can probably find it playing somewhere, I want to see it in the theatre.

  14. shoshpd*

    Whatever sick time you offer, the annual amount should be fronted, not accrued. You can’t plan when you’re going to be sick. Do you want people coming to your workplace with COVID, flu, norovirus, etc? Seems like common sense.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      I was shocked to see an employer in the year 2023 still accruing sick leave! You have to earn the right not to come to work sick by time served? Wooooooow.

      1. CL*

        I’ve never worked anywhere that wasn’t like that. Remember that accruing sick leave is better than none at all. Sad but true.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, please, cut out the accrual. Just change your policy to say people won’t get paid for unused sick days when they leave the company.

      If you must have a fixed number of sick days, LW, make it at least ten. I would venture that you have more people calling in sick because people are coming into work sick because they’ve used up their sick days (or they’re afraid they’ll run out of sick days) and they’re getting everyone else sick.

    3. J*

      I started a job in November and by January I had accrued enough sick time to leave 3 hours early when everyone started sharing their colds. It was a miserable year and I was immunocompromised. They assumed everyone would just have endless rollover sick time since the average employee had been there for 15+ years. But they never let you take them proactively (like for doctor’s appointments) so of course everyone had a huge bank. I also couldn’t take them before they accrued so I just went without pay and thankfully had a boss that didn’t fire me for needing 2 days out of office to recover from a cold.

  15. Emma*

    1. I’m writing from the UK so I am aware we have different laws and norms but the sick and holiday leave here sounds shockingly little to me.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      It is shockingly little by many US standards as well, but there are positions and places in this country where no sick time is offered or 5 days is generous. It’s abysmal.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      We don’t even have requirements for **unpaid** sick leave in the US. (This varies by state.) You can be fired for wanting to take off because you’re sick.

      An exception is if you and your company are covered under FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act – you have to have worked for that company for 12 months already, with at least half-time hours put in (1250+ hours in the last 12 months), and your company is either a governmental agency/public school or has 50+ employees within 75 miles. Then if you are sick enough to have a “serious health condition” such that you cannot do that work, you can take unpaid time off and have your job protected, and you get up to 12 weeks in a year for this. (This can also be used for childbirth/adoption leave, and for caring for immediate family members.)

      But companies can legally require you to take FMLA concurrently with your paid leave, so even if you have generous sick leave or parental leave, you might burn through your unpaid leave option as well if you have a rough year. So imagine having some prenatal complications and then taking maternity leave and then your baby gets sick all within a 12-month period and your unpaid leave – and job protection – may evaporate quickly.

    3. lilsheba*

      It’s the US, you can’t expect anything BUT too low or not enough of that kind of thing here. This country is ridiculous.

  16. Emma*

    4. “How do you do” is still in light use where I am (UK) but definitely not by younger people and it does feel a bit stiff.

  17. rollyex*

    “I have two employees already in the negative and they won’t catch up until they start earning sick time for the next calendar year. They both just began this summer. The sick time excuses do not seem out of line”

    The answer is in here.

    1. bamcheeks*

      yes, I would flip this around, LW1 — what’s stopping you? What’s the limiting factor? It doesn’t sound like this would create hardship for the business, and it would in fact make your life easier because you wouldn’t have this sense of “debt” which is bothering you (and probably bothering your employees too!)

      It sort of sounds like the only thing stopping you is the idea that you might be being TOO generous, and you don’t want to go above The Norm, and really, switch that off! Be generous! Be a GREAT employer instead of a good one! If your employees are good, you want to keep them, and the business can afford it, be generous, make life easy for them. It’s in your power!

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        A lot of employers underestimate how much goodwill they can generate among valued staff members by making sure they don’t need to worry about getting sick. I mean, it’s a source of stress and we all know that stress is a huge factor in just about every type of illness or accident.

      2. LW#1*

        Hi LW#1 Here –
        I have not had issues with other employees on how much sick time I’ve given them so I guess I was just asking what’s standard for a small business. Everyone here has work that must be done every single day so if people are out, it does create a hardship for us, but as I said I’m willing to address that. I just want to know whats fair. We also live in Massachusetts so there is short term disability available through the state for everyone (up to 20 weeks a year partially paid if you qualify)

        1. LW#1*

          These are two new grads, new employees who started this summer. I was wondering what other businesses do. If people go over their sick time, do they make them take vacation? Do they not pay them? Do they let them go into next years allotment?

          1. Orange_Erin*

            I think most companies that have separate sick time and vacation buckets will have the employee dip into their vacation time if they max out their sick time.

            Personally, I prefer the everything together in one bucket approach so an employee doesn’t have to defend their sick time – just take a day off and it comes out of the PTO bucket. I had 17 days of PTO when I first started my job and would use most of my days off for mental health days. I’m not going to a doctor or providing any medical info to my employer. It’s also nice when an employer offers the ability to roll over unused time off.

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            So I work for a state university so its a bit diffrent but if we use our sick time we have to use our vacation time. We really don’t have a choice because we have to have 40 hours/week on our checks (for hourly).

            I have worked in places where we had no sick time just a general pool of PTO. We were allowed to go negative. This really backfired on employees because the company ( a large corporation with multiple sites across the US) closed our site leaving a lot of people without jobs. In my last check, I only got like $100 because they made me pay back my vacation time that I went negative on because of medical issues (caused by the stress of that place).

          3. Nancy*

            I’m in MA and my workplace lets you go into the negative, use your vacation time, or apply for the MA medical leave plan, whichever you prefer. We get 12 sick days that carry over.

        2. Alex*

          If you live in MA and these are full time 40 hour workers, your policy may be so stingy it is running afoul of the law. Workers must earn at least 1 hour of sick time per 30 hours worked in MA.

          Expand your sick time. It is extremely low, especially in MA.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            The MA law comes into effect when a company hits 11 employees. So, not yet, but pretty soon for OP.

        3. Colette*

          I worked at a large organization that only gave 5 days sick time. One year I slipped on some ice in February and got a concussion. I was out 3 days over the week and had 2 sick days for the rest of the year.

          They also had short term disability at 100%, but I’m not sure I would have gotten it if I’d needed 3 days off for a cold.

          In another example, I had COVID in September; I tested positive for 13 days (9 work days).

          I’d say 10 is the minimum that is reasonable. Yeah, not everyone will need 10 days every year – but it’s not out of the realm of normal, particularly during a pandemic. And that’s without going in to people with chronic illnesses. (Do they need to use sick time for medical appointments, or is that separate?)

          1. Antilles*

            The first paragraph actually touches on an issue that I encountered in my first workplace which had stingy sick leave: People are going to be leery to use it (especially during the winter flu season of January-March) due to the risk of getting MORE sick later but not having used it up.
            Are you really going to use up 40% of your sick leave on a mild flu in February, knowing that doing so means you could be completely screwed if you get Covid six months later? Nope, chug that Theraflu, tell people you’re fine even while coughing up a lung, grab a trash can to place next to your desk in case you need to vomit, and power through.
            (Yes, that last sentence is a real example, how did you guess?)

      3. Generic Name*

        I agree. And think of it this way: I imagine you did some research to arrive at the number of sick days. It might be the standard minimum in your area or of the business owners you talked to. Do you want your staff doing the “standard minimum” to do their jobs? You want employees who go above and beyond, right? Well, why would employees go above and beyond for you for the bare minimum in return?

  18. CYA ASAP*

    About #2: I agree with the general philosophy of the answer, “you have to let him fail,” but think Alison has missed some important nuance here. You have to let the guy fail in a way that leaves your own reputation protected from the consequences of the failure.

    In dysfunctional environments I have worked in, I have seen this backfire on people in the LW’s position. What happens is: you let the bad employee fail, negative consequences arrive, and your boss’ bosses start looking to lay blame. Since you are the person closest to this crappy employee — and (perversely) have a history of helping them out — you can become the default scapegoat.

    And it’s super easy — and super tempting — for your boss to throw you under the bus when things start getting spicy. “Let him fail” suddenly becomes “you should have taken ownership of the project regardless of your formal job responsibilities,” and BOOM, now you’re the non-proactive employee that just sat on their a** while things went south.

    This can happen even if your boss backs you up (even in writing), via damage to your reputation. You suddenly become “the person associated with the failed project” (or lost client, etc.) to top management, even if your performance reviews, etc., remain positive. Unless your boss is influential (which they probably aren’t if they have trouble getting this guy fired without obvious failures), this is a very real possibility.

    TL;DR — it’s fine to let this guy fail, but make sure to CYA *and* find a way to make the guy fail in a way that will minimize fallout. Ideally, the failures happen on internally-facing issues that can be fixed before they leave your department/office/division, so no higher-ups or external people see them.

  19. On interviews and PTO*

    re: how do you do – to me that reads the same as howdy doody…if you want that to be your quirk in day to day life it can be your thing, but it is rather inappropriate and unprofessional in most interview settings…just like if rainbow kilts are your jam that might fit into the dress code no problem but still be a poor choice in most interview settings

    re: sick time…in my experiences most places your sick, holiday, and pto time all come out of the same bank. So yes, other places may give more PTO on paper, but THIRTEEN holidays!! that’s nearly 3 weeks of additional PTO plus the extra hours off every week the writer gives his staff and holey moley that’s a lot of time off. I prefer that combined approach because it gives me the ability to use my time in the way that works best for me… if I took care of my body well and avoided illness then I have some extra hours I can bank for a rainy day, but if not *really* sick but just not quite feeling right I don’t have to figure out whether I can morally call it a sick day vs a PTO day and can just be responsible for what works for my work. And the main argument I’ve heard against that is what is about ‘using up’ PTO when sick, but unless you’re going to take the days unpaid, even a company with separate sick time could have people using up PTO on illness… in fact at my current company which is the first I’ve been at the separates the time, I wish they didn’t because you have to use up 36 hours of PTO on an illness before you can start drawing from your sick time, so it really only covers more catastrophic illnesses…which now that I’m thinking about it really only delays when short term disability kicks in, because how often is one sick an entire week to reach that point where the sick time could be used? I only take 1-3 days off for PTO in a typical year, so it isn’t like I’m hurting for the days, but it does mean they are accumulating and a complete waste to me

  20. nyny*

    I think many employers give more time off (vacation, pto, whatever) based on years employed, so to look at averages employees get may not tell the entire story. Given LW1 is having the problem with new employees, she may want to consider this.

    1. Alice*

      I think OP is noticing this problem with new employees because the business has been, for years, selecting for employees who
      – have good luck
      – don’t mind coming in to work while contagious/infectious
      – are not caregivers
      – are not disabled
      How many people are going to stay a long time at a company with only 5 sick days? The ones who care and who can, are eventually going to move on.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        That would probably apply in a company that’s been around for longer. This is a tiny new company that only employed OP and her husband in 2020. Nobody’s been there a long time.

        1. LW#1*

          Yes -this is it! And I have let people roll over time so it’s never been an issue before. I’m asking because I want to have a balance of what is good for us and good for the employees. After a year, our employees do get 3 weeks vacation and after 5 years of work they go up to 4 weeks of vacation (when someone gets there).

          1. Observer*

            I’m asking because I want to have a balance of what is good for us and good for the employees

            The thing is that if you are thinking in the long term, to a large extent what is good for the employees is good for the company, even if it creates some up front costs. Because turnover of good staff is expensive. And by an large employees who are not coming in sick, but who *are* reasonably content and see the employer as a good employer that they *choose* to work at wind up doing more and better work. And if you are an employer of choice rather than a last resort, you get to keep your best staff, *especially* in a tight labor market.

          2. AcademiaCat*

            I don’t have any major chronic illnesses, and I was out sick 15 days last year (I checked when I was putting together my annual self-appraisal). I caught Covid once (a full week out right there), and I was just especially unlucky with colds. Maybe I could’ve taken Dayquil and come in, the way I used to in the bad old days of retail, but if I’m going to spend my day blowing my nose and feeling miserable, I’d rather do it in bed, where I might actually rest and not get anyone else sick.

            And that’s with a cushy university job where I can flex my hours around doctor’s appointments and such. Even in my crappy retail job we got 10 days worth of sick time up front if we were full-time.

            Vacation is different. Accrual and annual increases make perfect sense when you’re talking about the fun stuff. But don’t make your employees feel they have to work sick. It costs you more in the long run between getting others sick and mistakes they make in the brain fog of illness.

          3. Aitch Arr*

            Having to wait 5 years to get 4 weeks is not great.
            Instead, how about incremental increases? 1 extra day of vacation per year is the same as 5 more days in 5 years, but is much better.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I’ve never heard of sick leave increasing with tenure though. The stat given in the answer is specific to sick leave, not vacation or combined PTO.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Eh it was like that at my employer – both vacation an sick were earned based on tenure. They did change it to a flat # some years ago but it hasnt been that long (maybe 10 years?) and that didnt help me when I started.

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW1, If you’re looking for a measurable positive for your company, think about employee retention rates!

    1. LingNerd*

      With a small company, retention rates may be hard to measure in a significant way. But the odds of losing 2/3 of your staff for several days (or having them be incredibly unproductive while working) because someone showed up to work sick and gave it to everyone else? Probably a lot lower. Also, the morale boost of not having to worry so much about rationing sick time, and very likely shorter illnesses (and increased productivity) because people actually take time off to rest

  22. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW #1: your company only started in 2020, a year when people were still social distancing and masking and this helped us kill off an entire strain of the flu. This year alone there have been not only covid but a bad norovirus, RSV, flu and strep throat running through my workplace and my local town friends since the end of summer. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been sick this year at least once and for several days. Don’t use 2020 as the baseline for your measure of “more sick days than we have had to use in the past”… the first year or two of the pandemic are an anomaly and especially if you have working parents with school or day care aged children, they bring home illnesses almost daily sometimes it seems. 5 sick days is way too low, as you have seen in real time. I hope you can at least double it to 10. With only 7 employees and already running lean at some times, you certainly do not want employees coming to work sick. And anyone who suffers from migraines, or debilitating menstrual cycles for example, things they have no control over and sometimes cannot predict, will not be well served by 5 days per year.

  23. I should really pick a name*

    It can be really useful to avoid rigid thinking about points of etiquette like that.
    Just because you were taught something doesn’t make it a universal practice.

    Are they coming across as friendly?
    Great, then the specific words don’t matter.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      This. Even Miss Manners would agree. Etiquette rules are about decreasing social friction. Insisting on hard and fast rules that must never be broken does not achieve that end.

  24. Rosacoletti*

    #1 surely there is a statutory minimum for both these types of leave in the US? In Australia it’s 20
    Days annual leave and 10 days sick/carers leave.

    Our induction includes a detailed explanation of these as we hire a lot of grads who simply dont imagine actually ever needing it – we advise people to save some sick leave for a rainy day rather than using it as it accrues for a headache. I think COVID made it hit home. We have plenty of examples of employees who were able to take weeks or months off when they got injured because they had saved it.

    I find by raising it early it makes it easier to address if it becomes a problem later. The idea is letting people go into negative balances so early in their tenure with you makes me uneasy

    1. ecnaseener*

      You must be new here :) No, there’s no statutory minimum in the US (at least at the federal level — some states have requirements).

      1. Sacred Ground*

        California requires a minimum of 3 days or 24 hours of paid sick days accrued per year. Sounds stingy but it’s more than most states that have no requirement. CA started this in 2015.

        It’s going up to 5 days/40 hours in 2024. The bill was signed into law a month ago and goes into effect January 1.

    2. bamcheeks*

      We have plenty of examples of employees who were able to take weeks or months off when they got injured because they had saved it

      On the flipside, this is wild to me as a British person. You don’t “save up” sick time– you take it if you need it!

      Many companies will have process for managing regular absence if it’s starting to have an impact on the work, but I don’t know if it’s ever as simple as “x days a year”– mostly I’ve seen the Bradford scale, which is about how many episodes of absence you have a year rather than a specific number of years (and ideally, it’s a first step for recognising an issue, and shouldn’t be used as an automatic trigger for a disciplinary process or anything.) Lots of organisations will also have a specific point between 1-6 months for where full pay turns into half-pay or Statutory Sick Pay, but that’s typically for single extended absences rather than short or frequent absences.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Use of the Bradford scale really varies by company. Some companies do go straight to a disciplinary or capability process on the basis of reaching a certain point. Often it is when you get to one number there’s a verbal discussion to try and figure out if there’s anything systematic going on. And when you get to a different, higher number it becomes part of an official process. Sometimes as you say it will be more of a discussion rather than automatic (and absences related to a disability shouldn’t be taken into account for this, or maternity). My ex’s company had a system where you would only get half of the cost of living increase for that year if you’d had 3 or more occurrences of sickness.

        To save a search – the Bradford factor is a formula where you take number of ‘episodes’ x number of episodes x total duration (in a rolling year). So if you take 2 days off each of 3 times, this is 3 x 3 x 6 = 54. If the 6 days were all part of a single illness it is 1 x 1 x 6 = 6. The idea is that multiple short occurrences are more disruptive. A trigger point might be a score of 50 gets a verbal discussion and 100 an official process.

        I think there are positives and negatives to both ways of doing this (British and the States), as it seems like in the states you could take the 2 days x 3 occurrences like in my example and that would be the expected usage (if you have 6 days of sick time available) with no comment at all from management.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Sadly, even in the UK, there are firms who’ll do absolutely anything to avoid paying people for sick leave. I once got fired from a job for ‘having too many instances of being off ill’.

          I’m disabled. But big multinational corporation versus one disabled techie? I couldn’t win. Even when it’s technically illegal it’s still a case of ‘Us and Them’

        2. bamcheeks*

          Yikes, I don’t think I’d realised that it was the number of episodes squared! I thought it was usually 8+ short absences that was a trigger. I’m pretty sure everyone I managed would have had a score of at least 50 in 21-22, and fortunately I didn’t get any alerts from the system or calls from HR!

      2. doreen*

        I think the saving of sick time refers to something that some people with generous sick time sometimes do . Although I am in the US, I always had jobs with plenty of sick time – but I didn’t call in sick every time I had a mild headache or didn’t sleep well or had cramps . I took off if the issue was bad enough that I wouldn’t be productive or able to stay awake, but if the headache/cramps wouldn’t keep me from a social event, I went to work. I didn’t make sure to take a sick day as soon as I earned it whether I needed it or not like some people I know did. In large part, that was because I wouldn’t lose my sick time completely . I retired with 200 sick days which added to my pension time and will pay for part of my health insurance premium until I die – but I saved it because it meant I would stay on the payroll for months if I had a major illness or injury.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      In general US doesn’t have a lot of laws around employment. Some states have some.

      So whenever you think “surely the US has…..” in regards to employment the answer is most likely no, no we don’t.

    4. rollyex*

      “surely there is a statutory minimum for both these types of leave in the US?”


      Also crying.

  25. Rosacoletti*

    “How do?”
    “Wotcha?” Have been around a long time but I love the newer “s’goingon?”.

    1. Alan*

      I love working with fresh-outs and listening to the way they speak. My daughters too. Then I go into meetings with the mid- and late-career folks and use it on them :-). It’s my personal campaign to bring my fellow oldtimers into the new age :-).

  26. Rachel*

    I’m going to request that people go easier on LW1.

    They are learning this position as they go and asked for help when they spotted a problem. A lot of small businesses grow this way.

    There is a lot of scorn directed towards this LW that is unwarranted

  27. WorkerAlias*

    I’m an American living in Europe and the first letter is a good reminder why it’s really, really hard to think about moving back, even though I’d love to be closer to my family. My last job in the US, I had a combined 10 days vacation and sick time (this was at a job that required a master’s degree or bachelor’s + certification; I have a master’s). At my current European job, I have six weeks vacation and six weeks of sick leave, and the sick leave can be extended to long term if needed. It’s so bizarre to look at American work practices from the other side of things and realize there’s a reason (many reasons, actually) American workers are so stressed out.

    1. WorkerAlias*

      Also wanted to add that here we get an additional 40 days per household of caregiver’s leave (20 per parent in a two parent home, or 40 in a single parent home) if your kid, spouse, etc is sick and you need to miss work to take care of them, so those days don’t come out of your own vacation or sick days. I am so grateful for policies like this.

  28. Rachel*

    4: I would also avoid the phrase “I was raised to do X” which often comes across as “I don’t want to change.”

    Flexibility and the ability to change with cultural norms is so important at any age, but especially so if you are an older employee trying to look younger.

  29. Hiring Mgr*

    1). People don’t like unlimited PTO because you don’t get paid out at the end but good lord it helps with ridiculousness like a paltry amount of sick days

    2) I’d be wary about letting the employee fail when there are customers involved. Something isn’t adding up here. This guy has been here for two years and can’t cut and paste, yet he’s responsible for important internal and external projects? He’s already failed by every measure – you don’t want to get lumped in with him when customers complain. “My boss told me to let this happen” might not cut it when the big bosses get complaints.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree re: #2. I commented about it on another thread here. It seems like a bad idea to let the colleague fail unless you know the manager really has your back.

    2. kiki*

      LW 2: I think it’s worth asking for clarification on what LW’s husband boss means when they say “let him fail.” Because I think there’s a world in which LW’s husband is helping so much and intervening so early that it’s hard for anyone but LW to see how bad this engineer is (granted, that should still be enough to merit an investigation or performance plan). I’m wondering if what LW’s boss means is that LW needs to step back enough to let people other than themselves see just how bad this engineer is doing. Don’t ship something terrible that this engineer builds, but let him demo something terrible internally so your boss sees. Let him fumble a few internal questions without immediately jumping in to help. Make sure customers aren’t affected and your internal stakeholders get what they need in a timely manner, but allow other people to see this employee’s actual performance.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This. I very much doubt they mean to let him fail all the way through to the end–usually they just mean let him fail enough that he can’t hide it any more. Someone will still clean up the mess before the job is delivered, but right now it’s being cleaned up so early that it’s not clear there is a problem.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Yes that would make more sense than how I was reading it – it does come down to what ‘let it fail’ means here.

      3. doreen*

        I had encountered a situation like this once – Tara and Anne were close friends outside of work. They worked together at a previous job and worked a second job together. Everything seemed to be fine until Tara got a promotion and was transferred – at which point Anne couldn’t meet deadlines and couldn’t write an acceptable report. No one was sure if Tara just did the work for Anne or just got on her to meet deadlines and rewrite unacceptable reports but it had apparently gone on for years and no one knew.

    3. Dinwar*

      People don’t like “unlimited PTO” because it’s generally a lie. Either the company structures things so that you can’t use it, or it’s not really unlimited they just won’t tell you how much you can use, or only certain people use it. Last time I checked companies with “unlimited” PTO had employees using less PTO than those that had employees accrue it.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Checked what? Is there a database somewhere of companies and how much time their employees take off broken down by type of PTO?

        But no it’s not supposed to be truly unlimited, that’s a misnomer – just more flexible.

        You can easily institute unlimited with a minimum requirement to make sure people take the appropriate time – I’ve been doing this for 20 yrs.

        1. Dinwar*

          “Checked what? Is there a database somewhere of companies and how much time their employees take off broken down by type of PTO?”

          In the cases I’ve seen, yes.

          There are different codes for holidays, vacations, sick leave, bereavement, maternity, paternity, and a few other classifications. It’s not seen on the employee’s end, but they absolutely track it on the back end.

          I’ve also seen where you need to put some sort of justification in when you request PTO. Any online form you submit is tracked somehow–as evidenced by some official communications about what this unlimited PTO “was intended to be used for”.

          But even the worry that this is the case has a chilling effect. If I accrue PTO I can look at my balance and say “I’ve got 160 hours, I like to keep 80 or so stockpiled, so I can take a week off no problem.” It’s hard to criticize me because this is my PTO, I earned it. If it’s “unlimited” there’s always the worry in the back of my mind (and the minds of many others that I’ve spoken with, in multiple companies) that you’ll take too much and get in trouble for it. I KNOW when I’ve taken too much if I accrue it, or if I have a set limit, or something; “unlimited” really means that the company isn’t telling me what the parameters are and until someone gets their wrist slapped we’re all just guessing.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            That’s why I recommend if a company goes to unlimited, setting a minimum of 3-4 weeks that everyone should use. It shouldn’t be a guessing game as to what’s appropriate.

            Though I’d also say if you’re happy with your current allotment of time off and how/when you can use it, then no need to switch. However I don’t think you can say the OPs current situation (only ten sick days that need to be ‘earned’) is better!

            1. Salsa Your Face*

              Yes, when my former employer switched to unlimited PTO, our managers explicitly told us to be sure to take the minimum number of days we were getting before. We were all explicitly focused on not creating a culture of “who can take the least vacation.”

        2. I should really pick a name*

          It’s pretty easy to find articles on the topic. I’m adding one in a reply to this.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            A good combination/compromise I’ve seen is standard, accrued vacation time with unlimited sick time.

            1. Dinwar*

              Yeah, that would be much better. Some things are simply outside of your control, and a reasonably compassionate boss will recognize that if given a means by which to do so. And sick leave is different from vacation–you’re not gone because you’re having fun, you’re gone because you can’t work, and if you try you’re a detriment to the company. But when PTO is combined with sick leave, parental leave, caregiving, and a bunch of other stuff it all gets muddled and it’s really easy for a boss to say “You just took a vacation, I don’t think you can be out again just now.”

        3. I Have RBF*

          The company I currently work for has unlimited vacation. Managers are expected to model taking adequate time off, and to make sure that their employees unplug when taking vacation. Is it really “unlimited”?? Probably not, but I figure it would have to be in the eight or nine weeks range before anyone squawked.

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      The other person is not responsible for major projects, the Husband is. he’s asked to be moved so he doesn’t have to deal with other person but been told he can’t because he’s too valuable.

      Here’s the thing — Husband is not responsible for people management. he’s the technical lead. Boss is telling him don’t manage, just do tech. Husband is not listening and still trying to do not what is within the scope of his job. If he just sticks to the job, there is a less chance he will be blamed when things go south. Not no chance, but less because its on the leads responsible for people management, not him. Which btw, where are those people? Husband needs to let them do their jobs instead of stepping to “help.”

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I think the husband here is caught b/t a rock and a hard place because I don’t see how he can just do the tech part if the employee literally doesn’t know the basics of cutting and pasting.

        If the husband is responsible for the projects, and nobody else is stepping up to manage the employee, that would make it even more imperative in my mind to just get this guy out of the picture altogether. Or pick some other project with less at stake to have him fail. Damage to the team’s repuatation internally and externally is serious!

        1. blu*

          He could stop answering the things outside of his scope and direct him to his actual manager. The would allow actual manager to document the gaps. Right now the husband is essentially hiding the problem. Let him fail doesn’t mean sabatoge him, it means stop covering for him and allow his gaps to be visible to someone other than you.

    5. Kuleta*

      I knew someone who didn’t realize their employer’s policy was basically unlimited PTO, in practice if not officially. Her wedding was coming up when she left, and she’d obviously been banking on an unused vacation payout.

      IDK why she apparently didn’t clarify their PTO before taking the job.

    6. sb51*

      If you’re dividing it into two buckets, though, unlimited sick time (that doesn’t get paid back/rolled over/etc) and limited vacation time (that does) works fine.

      Also most of the problems with “unlimited PTO” banks tend to be that they show up in in industries that are, for the US, generous, and the employers offering them are pretending to be even more generous but then also pushing people away from actually taking the leave.

  30. LingNerd*

    LW4 – these thngs are called phatic expressions! They don’t have much literal meaning, and instead mostly mean “I am being friendly and participating in the social ritual.” And, as with any part of language, they change over time. If a particular phrase falls out of favor, it begins to get more of its literal meaning back. This is happening now with “dear” as a salutation at the start of letters or formal emails, where many young people feel that it sounds intimate and as though they are saying the person they’re addressing is dear to them. There’s also a whole lot of people with a whole lot of feelings about “you’re welcome” vs “no problem” and it’s because we’re mid-shift, so older generations read more literal meaning into “no problem” and younger generations read more literal meaning into “you’re welcome.”

    Anyway, all of that to say that it’s not rude to follow along when polite language changes. And it’s also fine to switch between different expressions depending on if you’re talking with someone who’s 60 or someone who’s 20.

  31. whatchamacallit*

    LW #1 it’s flu season plus COVID and RSV, of course people are going through sick leave! Do you at least have a flexible WFH policy? COVID finally got me this year, and I was only particularly sick for the first 2 days or so, but was testing positive for about 2 full weeks. I essentially worked from home on the days I felt fine and took advantage of being able to sleep in since I wasn’t commuting which was important for recovering.

    1. Not Totally Subclinical*

      I agree that it’s a great idea if the job can be done from home, but for all we know, LW1’s business might be manufacturing, landscaping, animal care, retail — something that the employees can’t do remotely.

  32. Bast*

    LW1 — I have worked at more than one company with the 1 week sick, 2 weeks vacation policy, and am shocked at the number of employers who think it is “good.” TBH, the higher ups never stuck to their own rules and would take a lot more time off than that, so perhaps they didn’t know how it felt to only get 5 sick days.

    In a post Covid world at my old job, I made the argument many times over that this limited sick leave encourages people to come in sick, to which I was told that it encourages people to figure out if they are “really” sick or not…. Meanwhile being told to stay home if they are sick and refusing to acknowledge our policy did not have enough leave for that. Alison is correct that one bout of Covid or a bad flu can knock someone out of all their sick time in one go. Please just give people the extra 5 days so they don’t have to worry about all their sick leave being eaten up by catching Covid early and then having no sick leave for the better part of a year. Poor sick leave is part of the reason why office endemics happen, and before you know it, half the office is out with the same flu/Covid.

  33. Slow Gin Lizz*

    This is only tangential to OP1’s question, but since they said that they are now acting as HR director and learning as they go, I wonder if it might be a good idea for them to hire a new staff member who has HR training. Even if you only have enough work for a part-time HR person, it still might be good to have someone who really knows HR instead of you having to learn it as you go and do it all on top of all the other things involved in running a company. HR is quite complicated and can have serious legal consequences if done incorrectly, so it might be smart to get someone who can really address HR issues and tasks and leave you to do whatever it is that you like doing that led you to start your own company in the first place.

    Even if you don’t want to hire someone directly, I think there are ways to outsource HR too, like HR consulting firms or something like that. I think my org is looking into this right now to fill a gap while we find a new HR person after our old one retires. (I am not involved in the search so I unfortunately can’t provide more details than this; I only know that it’s happening.)

    Someone who would make a terrible HR employee

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, “acting as HR director and learning as they go” is a great way to learn yourself as you go into a lawsuit. There are organizations and consultants that can offer trained HR specialists on an as-needed basis.

    2. Sacred Ground*

      This was my first thought too.
      LW, you’re trying to learn as you go in a field in which most people get specific education and training, and where a mistake can have catastrophic consequences for your business.
      The last two restaurants I worked at, small businesses run by the owners with only about 20 or so employees, HR and payroll functions were outsourced to a contractor, a specialized firm that does just this, HR for small businesses.

      That was an ongoing contract and probably more costly in the long run than hiring a FT HR person but a small business doesn’t have the need for someone full time so this worked out for them. It also has the advantage of insulating the business from liability in the case of an error.

      Then there are individual HR professionals who work as consultants for businesses large and small. (The illustrious author of this blog is one such consultant, I believe.) You could hire an expert to come in for a limited time to get your systems set up and train you on the basics and show you the resources you’d need to continue doing it yourself. Like you might do for other crucial business functions such as IT. I’d be inclined to go this route. No long-term contract, no dependency on an outside company, and you learn a useful skill.

  34. Yoyoyo*

    “How do you do” is making a comeback with the preschool set thanks to the finger family song. I personally get to hear it about 3478658437634 times a day!

  35. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: Our vacation hours stop accruing at 240 (and restart again as soon as you use some) and I don’t know when our sick time maxes out–I currently have over 400 hours and have donated large chunks to the office medical leave pool in the past. Our leave is generous, I think, but one week of sick time and two of vacation is insulting. And that’s from someone who doesn’t have kids to bring home school germs, either. We also have some WFH capability, although a lot of our work can’t be done from home.

    (I’m in the US.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      We’re also actively encouraged to use both vacation and medical time. My previous jobs had it but made it impossible to schedule it, which was a whole other level of infuriating.

  36. Jane Bingley*

    I worked for a job that had 5 days of sick leave. We also weren’t allowed to use our vacation time retroactively or on the day of, weren’t allowed to work from home, and we were discouraged from taking unpaid time off as it made things complicated for the accounting team. As a result, I was constantly in the red and having to add time back to my day by working late and coming in on weekends. Even if I had no work to do because it was a slow season, I’d have to add up these hours to break even. And of course, constantly working extra hours made it harder to rest, which made it more likely that… I’d get sick again.

    I now work for a fully remote company that doesn’t track sick time at all. If you need it, you need it. It’s a small company, which makes an honour system easier, but it’s been lifechanging for me. I take sick days when I need them. If I’m worried I could be contagious but feeling okay, I work from home. I can come back for a half day if I’ve got it in me and then go home. And because I actually rest when I’m sick, without working extra or worrying about how I’ll work extra – I take far fewer sick days than I ever used to.

  37. kiki*

    For the sick time, one week is pretty low. I am what I’d consider a lucky, relatively healthy person. I also don’t have kids, I work entirely remotely so don’t have very much exposure to germs, and I don’t have any major chronic illnesses or conditions that require much time off work. I still used more than a week of sick time this year. I just happened to get the flu– it knocked me out for 4 days. I’ve seen covid knock folks out for two weeks. A week really doesn’t cut it.

  38. WantonSeedStitch*

    I’m in New England and in my 40s. “How do you do?” seems exceptionally formal and archaic to me–maybe not quite as much as curtsying or bowing upon meeting someone for the first time, but still. I would be surprised to hear it even from an older person in a formal context, though I can IMAGINE hearing it in that kind of situation. I would not consider it an actual question to answer, and would probably just respond with “it’s very nice to meet you.”

  39. Fluffy Fish*

    OP 1 – I get 15 sick days a year and we’re allowed to bank unused which is lovely for bouts of serious conditions. Over the course of my career I have raised a child alone (thus responsible for all missed school days due to illness and dr appts), had 3 significant surgeries, and while I’m generally lucky to not get sick frequently, I of course have had my sick days. I also have regular dr appointments for a chronic illness.

    I still have hundreds upon hundreds of hours in my leave bank.

    My point is people as a whole don’t abuse sick leave. You are paying them whether they are working or home sick- is it really worth penalizing good employees? Is your business really the kind that takes a direct financial hit if an employee doesn’t come to work? Do you really want to incentivize people coming to work sick? Do you really want people to leave for better benefits? Do you and your partner hold yourselves to a week sick leave?

    I’m not saying you have to give 15 (although of course I’m going to advocate for as much as possible), but a week is nothing.

  40. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW 1, no, you do not offer enough sick leave. And having it accrue is particularly awful – people often schedule appointments with primary care docs and dentists a year in advance, so your new hires could be in the red just from that. Add in a kid or an additional routine appointment like an eye doctor or a gynecologist and they’ll be out of days even if nobody gets sick.

    Upping the total days is essential, but some other changes to consider:

    Stop the “accrual” policy. They get the yearly allotment (or a prorated amount) immediately.

    Let people take sick time in smaller increments, so people can take a half-day or even a couple hours for a doctor appointment.

    Stop thinking of reasons for taking sick time as “excuses”. People get sick and people see doctors. Those are explanations, not excuses.

    1. pally*

      Yes -agree with this.

      Would an employer rather the employees did NOT go to their various doctor appointments needed to maintain health? Hope that’s not the case-for any employer.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Well, I’d say accrual itself isn’t inherently bad. But it sounded like OP’s companies policy is no rollover? The way they talked about next year made me think that. If you can rollover sick time up to multiples of the annual allowance, then accrual can be good. I used to have a job where we only got 5 sick days a year but it never expired. The cap was equivalent to something like 4 months. But was also policy you could go negative to a year’s worth. In many ways, I preferred that to my job after that which was 10 sick days a year, but they expired Dec 31. My current job is the best though as the policy is “if you’re sick take a sick day. if you have an appointment, go to it”.

  41. Olive*

    Whatever LW2’s partner would do to manage the work without the problem engineer is what he should start doing right now. How would he manage customers and deadlines if the guy was transferred or fired? Make those things happen first, as if he weren’t there anymore.

    Assign the problem engineer to either overlapping, non-crucial, or future work, don’t spend huge amounts of time hand-holding him, record his failure to accomplish those tasks, but don’t put him on any more time-sensitive tasks.

  42. Jack McCullough*

    LW1–I’ve never worked anywhere with less than twelve days a year. Sick time is good for the employer because it keeps sick employees at home, rather than infecting others.

    LW3–No comment about how bad the company is to fail to train this new hire in over two years? Granted, not knowing how to cut and paste is pretty glaring, but if you hire someone you have a responsibility to provide the resources, including training, to give them a chance to succeed.

    LW4–I’m 70 and I’ve never heard someone say “How do you do?” My favorite greeting is “Good to see you” because it masks the possibility that you just forgot that you have met the person before.

    1. Olive*

      It seems like the company did a terrible job of hiring, but not everyone can be trained to be at a productive level in two years, even with good teaching and motivation. Think of all the people who sincerely wanted to study something in college but had to change majors because they were continually falling behind. It’s a company’s job to give motivated employees opportunities to grow and learn, not to provide an entire remedial education.

    2. Alan*

      Re #3, sounds like maybe I’m not the only one to say “Nice to meet you” and have them respond “We’ve already met”.

    3. Wednesday*

      Re: “Good to see you”
      I’m part of a large organization that only meets in person once or twice a year, and a few people always say this when they see me. I was always touched that they remembered me since I’m so introverted, but now you’ve got me wondering!

  43. Keymaster of Gozer*

    2. If the manager has said to let him fail, then let him fail – BUT get this in some form of writing. Even a simple email from the boss of ‘stop covering up for X’s mistakes’ will be useful.

    To tell a story: there was a techie I worked with back in the Windows XP days on the software distribution team who was utterly useless. Hadn’t a clue. Could barely open command line. But the other members on the team kept fixing his ‘work’ because if it went out it would brick the machines it was deployed to.

    We got a new boss, an absolutely amazing man (still my mentor to this day) who saw this happening, called in the techie for training and ‘what is going on? did you lie on your CV? you call this code?!’ meetings and then told the rest of the team to let this techie see the consequences of his actions for once.

    2 weeks later, despite the techie promising he knew what he was doing, he sent out a patch that wasn’t fixed by his coworkers…and blue screened several hundred desktops. He also compounded his error by 1) trying to hide it 2) trying to blame someone else and 3) when told to roll it back said he would…and bricked another hundred machines by sending out the same patch.

    The absolutely massive outcry from the company end users got that guy (eventually, we’re in the UK, there’s paperwork) fired for gross incompetance. And bonus round: when IT announced to the rest of the company that the guy who bricked their machines was GONE we got so many ‘thank you! you do listen to us!’ messages from them.

    So actually, it ended up a very messy day that led to months of goodwill toward IT.

    1. Sacred Ground*

      LW doesn’t even need the manager to confirm the instruction to “let him fail” or even “stop covering his mistakes.” Rather, the instruction should be to “do your own work and spend no more time on training or assisting.”

      She’s your husband’s boss and she’s given him explicit instruction that this is outside of his job description. The manager has the prerogative to assign work and if your husband is doing work outside of that which is assigned, she has the authority to tell him to stop doing that because it’s causing a problem- it’s causing him to overwork and burnout while preventing upper management from identifying and letting go of a non-productive employee. Both of these are more harmful to the company than helpful.

      Since your husband really seems to be motivated by a conscientious desire to protect the company’s interest, maybe it would help him if he sees what he’s doing is actually harming the company and the team by keeping someone who really shouldn’t be there.

      In the long run, it’s also probably not helpful to the non-performing employee to stay at a job that they can’t actually do, let alone succeed at. Better for them to leave sooner rather than later and find something they’re good at.

  44. LW#1*

    Thanks everyone. A few things to add here as LW#1
    1.) I have had two other employees who have never gone in the negative and have been with us two years so that’s why I’m addressing this now. I do let them roll over days so it isn’t just 5 days a year total, use it or lose it.
    2.) We live in Massachusetts so there is a short term disability program through the state (up to 20 weeks) for those who qualifty.
    3.) These are two new grads who are new employees so I just want to make sure I’m handling this correctly.
    4.) Our office does have daily tasks that must be done so it is a hardship for others when people are out and things fall through the cracks.
    5.) I see the consensus is that I don’t offer enough sick time, but I guess some of my questions missed my point – any amount of sick time what do people do when you go over? Not pay them? Allow them to take next years?

    1. BG*

      You may find offering more sick time and not offering it on an accrual basis may solve the problem of employees going into the negative and you won’t need to worry about that conundrum any longer.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Absolutely. 10 days and front load it. If employees run out of sick time, allow them top take the time unpaid; do NOT require them to use vacation time even if they have it available. That could result in an employee losing out on a pre-planned (and pre-paid!) vacation because they got sick.

        Also, please see my comment (3 posts below this one) about the “lots of holidays but very little vacation” issue and how terrible it is for people whose families live far away.

    2. Emmie*

      My employer allows people to use other PTO such as vacation time. If all PTO is used, the person can take it unpaid.
      I applaud you for thinking about your benefits.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Do you expect your employees to come in sick, or to forgo appointments, because you have “work to be done”?

        2. Observer*

          I just also have lots of work that needs to be done :)

          One other thing you need to start thinking about is hiring to *not* be so lean. I know that being “lean” is the mantra, but in my experience it’s a recipe for disaster because any single hiccough will push you over the edge.

          If all of your staff are so maxed out that any time someone takes a day off it causes hardship, you are understaffed. Even if you have already factored the *paid* allotment, it’s still too much. I mean what happens if 2 people need to take paid leave on the same day? Theoretically, you’ve factored it in, but not really because it’s not the same. And what happens when someone has an emergency and they *need* to take unpaid time?

          Or to take a more positive situation – you have a spike of work. How does that get done? People are already at the max. And you are a *lot* less likely to get extra work out of people who get minimal benefits and are running at 100% (or even 95%) all of the time. It gets even worse when it’s not a spike but real growth. You’re not going to be able to sustain it till you manage to get more staff in place. Same reasons.

          And then, what happens when someone leaves? It *is* going to happen. Whether because you made a bad hire and need to let someone go, or because someone finds a better job (and the worse your benefits are, the more likely that is to happen – and with your most productive employees!), or because their life circumstances happen. You simply don’t have the slack or good will from your employees to manage the situation till you can find appropriate coverage.

          So, in addition to being good for your employees, it is good for your business to build some slack in.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Then you don’t have enough staff. If you can only get the work done when nobody is out, or is only out briefly, you are understaffed. I’ve worked places like this and it was absolutely one of the worst things about them.

          Besides, if somebody comes to work sick and everyone else gets sick, then you get even further behind. Penny wise, pound foolish.

        4. Dinwar*

          Something worth asking: How much of this is re-work?

          Once you push people past a certain point they start screwing up. Doesn’t matter how good they are, they screw up once they get beyond about 80% capacity or if they’re coming in to work sick. People in crisis mode do not make great decisions. And that means that you’re making extra work for your team, further increasing their workload. It’s a vicious feedback loop.

          Think of people like machines. If you constantly run an engine as fast as it’ll go–deep into the red–it’ll explode. And we’d consider an employer who did this to their equipment to be incompetent. Someone who routinely blows up their equipment due to poor practices is not someone who deserves to be a foreman, much less a manager! And if they said “I’ve got to run them like this, I’ve got a lot of work to do :)” we’d tell them “So get another piece of equipment, or outsource it, we can’t afford to keep blowing them up.” Yet that’s exactly what many companies do to their employees–they treat employees worse than than they do any other piece of equipment.

          People have an operational envelope. Everyone’s is slightly different, but we all have them. If your business needs require people to consistently function outside that operational envelope, they’ll fail–get fired, quit, burn out, transfer, or basically whatever it takes to get out of that situation.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            “Doesn’t matter how good they are, they screw up once they get beyond about 80% capacity or if they’re coming in to work sick.”

            This is such an important point that applies to many different aspects of business.

            When planning scheduling, if someone working at 100% of their time available can be expected to work 160 hours a month, plan for 80% of those hours (128/month) as actually available. If you do this with all your staff, you won’t be caught shorthanded when someone *inevitably* calls out or left unable to function if more than one call out.

            When planning production, assume your crew will be working at 80% of what they’re capable of producing (widgets per day, billable hours per week, whatever metric you use to gauge productivity. Because trying to be 100% productive all the time WILL burn them out and/or cause them to make costly errors. And this way, if one or more people call out sick, you can still meet your deadlines because you’ve planned for this.

            And as Dinwar said, when you get a sudden demand for more work, you already have the capacity to take it on *now* without having to hold off until you can bring in more people.

            Companies that try to squeeze 100% of their employees’ productive capacity are the ones with massive burnout and high turnover, the costs of which may well eat up whatever they save on payroll by running “lean”.

        5. Irish Teacher.*

          That sounds like maybe you need more staff.

          If people are sick, they are sick. That’s out of anybody’s control. And you want them to take the time off when they are sick, both because you certainly don’t want them coming in infecting everybody else and ending up with half your workforce having to call in sick and also because it’s better to have somebody take five days off and come back completely recovered than to take two days off and come in for the rest but be unproductive for a week or more because they are really too ill to be working.

          And really, any of your employees could be hit by a car tomorrow or something and need months off to recover. You’d still have the same number of staff whether they are paid during that time or not. Not paying them won’t get the work done any more quickly.

          I hope this doesn’t sound sarky. I really don’t mean it that way, but tone can be hard to get across when typing, so please assume that if anything here sounded sarky, I just phrased it badly

          I think there are two separate issues here – how much paid sick leave can you afford to give and have you enough staff to ensure the work gets done when somebody is out sick? And I really don’t think you should be using the first to make up for the second. You definitely don’t want people feeling they have to come in when they are sick. I can see putting limits to prevent people faking sick when they are not (though even there, I think it makes more sense to require some form of evidence for say more than a month’s sick leave in a year rather than not paying people at all if they get sick more than that), but sometimes people genuinely need long sick leaves.

          We had one person in my workplace who had a tragic death in her family, which I know is bereavement leave, not sick leave, but we still had to do without her, then she got pneumonia, then covid, the a post-covid infection, all in the space of three or four months. She probably missed about six weeks in that time. We also had somebody who had an operation, after which he was out for 4 months and would probably have been out longer but covid hit in then and the world shut down and we were all working from home.

          Or what if one of your employees became pregnant and you needed to do without them for the length of their maternity leave?

          You need to have enough staff to get the work done even if people are out sick.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Just allow them to take it, as long as it’s just a few days. Consider it a retroactive increase in their allotment. Or borrowed from next year’s more reasonable allotment.

    4. Becky S*

      When I interviewed people (not recently I admit) I found people were reluctant to leave a job if they had > 3 weeks vacation + plenty of sick time.
      You may have daily tasks that need to be done but if employees leave, you’ll have to cover those tasks.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        This. Basing vacation time on years of service at a single company is an extremely archaic practice, and it needs to end. It’s also an exclusively American and Canadian practice; Europeans (in all European countries) get a minimum of 4 weeks (many get 5 or even 6) with no regards to longevity at a particular company.

        Think of a 40-something with 10+ years of seniority at their company who would like to change jobs (whatever the reason), and gets told that “oops, you’ll be back to 2 weeks and will need to wait another 10 years to have 4 again”. Do you think that candidate will want to work for you?

        If you want to attract candidates, don’t make them go back to entry-level vacation and don’t make them wait decades to regain the vacation they used to have. Either be willing to negotiate vacation, or stop basing it on longevity altogether.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I very often don’t use five days of medical leave a year, either, but that doesn’t mean it’s adequate. My coworker has small kids and would burn through five days really quickly thanks to daycare sniffles, doctors’ appointments, etc. I just happen to be lower-risk than most people.

      “To those who qualify” is cold comfort to those who don’t?

    6. JustKnope*

      I think it would be helpful to stop thinking about these specific two employees vs your other employees. I know you’re trying to figure out what do to *right now* about the two that are over their balance, but I think the commenters are saying you should take a step back to look at your sick practices as a whole. The fact that these two employees are new grads has nothing to do with the situation. If they just started this summer and are accruing sick leave by paycheck, then yeah one or two days is going to put them in the red! I don’t have advice for how to handle that situation right now, except to say please do not take away their pay for a very reasonable amount of sick days.

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      4. Of course it’s more work (I wouldn’t stretch to hardship) for people covering for their colleagues. But that isn’t a problem in itself. If you suddenly had a rush job/event/whatever it is you do, that would also be temporarily more work, but would you phrase that as a hardship?

      Maybe you need better cross-training? When things fall through the cracks do you go back later when you’re fully staffed again and figure out what happened and institute changes to prevent it happening again? Have your employees got a clear sense of what tasks are crucial and what are less important so they focus on the right stuff? Do you have enough slack to let a few things slide when people are out sick?

      5. Make it so they can’t “go over”. Pay them. There shouldn’t be any such thing as “going into the red” on sick leave. Get familiar with Mass’s ST disability so you know when to implement it and how to guide employees to use it.

      You sound like someone who has always been healthy and therefore think that is the default and everyone is like you. You are finding out this year that you were mistaken. I would suggest also trying to reset your expectations that people *will* be out sick 2 weeks per year. Not might, not hopefully not, but will. Then you’ll be prepared when it happens, rather than scrambling. What if 2 people are out at the same time? What will you do? Game out various scenarios.

      Good luck!

    8. Ccbac*

      I’ve worked places with unlimited sick leave (that, by law, could also be used for medical appointments). this worked well- people took the time they needed and didn’t come to work sick. I work in a highly competitive field where everyone is an adult (ie none of this “iS mY empLoyee taking advantage of sick time and so I need to micromanage whether or not they are sick enough).

    9. Fluffy Fish*

      Gently, if you let them roll over sick days (and you should!) then you are already essentially giving people more than 5 days a year.

      Yes, when people are out it is sometimes a challenge to get daily tasks done but you clearly do it because you give vacation.

      As for if they go over – one if you are giving a reasonable amount of sick time they are unlikely to go over for routine illness/appts. Two, you can allow them to dip in to their other leave. Three, and the best option, you pay them anyway.

      Also, if you are expecting to staff full-time employees that you would like to stay employed long-term and you can’t afford to provide your employees with decent and reasonable amounts of leave – sick and vacation, you can’t afford to have employees.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Also you keep talking about the new grads using their days being an issue and that there’s other issues….them using FIVE days is not an issue. That is such a pittance of sick leave – it’s a non issue so just get that out of your head that it is. In fact you should be concerned that your other employees have not only not been taking all their sick leave but in fact taking so little they have any to roll over.

        I dislike generalizations but in a very broad statement younger generations are demonstrating they are not putting up with the capitalist crap of things like poor work-life balance and coming to work sick when they shouldn’t by actually using their leave. Please evaluate whether your concerns about these new grads are valid or if they are rooted in the capitalist way of sacrificing yourself for the good of the company. There’s a lot of “no one wants to work anymore” sentiment that the reality is no one wants to work for bad wages, bad benefits, bad balance etc etc.

      2. Beth*

        As a note–letting them roll over sick days doesn’t mean you’re giving all employees more than 5 days a year. New employees won’t have access to rollover days.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Yes of course. I just meant that if they allow rollover they are technically offering those employees who have rollover more than 5 days that year. Just an added point that they can in fact offer more than 5 days because they already are in certain circumstances.

          Frankly even doubling the sick leave is still insufficient and overall their leave offering’s are…bad…which is why I added that if they can’t offer proper leave they cant afford employees. I honestly should have led with that I think.

    10. tg33*

      I am not new to the workplace, but many years I didn’t take any sick leave (I don’t tend to get sick), and other years I’ve taken 6 weeks or more. Some of this is just plain luck.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yup, I was thinking the same thing. I usually take little to no sick leave, but one year, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had nearly five weeks off to recover from the operation, then another week for the radio-iodine treatment. I probably took more time off that year than in the rest of my 20 year career put together.

        I know the LW says her state has short term disability that would probably kick in for something like that, but that wouldn’t help with getting the work done.

    11. Era*

      If you have other employees, asking them directly might be a good resource! They’re clearly managing their sick leave okay, but few questions along the lines of “how often have you felt you needed to come in sick due to not having leave saved up” or similar might give a better sense than all the opinions of us online folk!

    12. teensyslews*

      TL;DR: offer unlimited sick time with policies around when it rolls into STD/LTD.

      In my experience – limited sick days mean people come into the office sick (and spread illness), or force themselves to work at less than 100% capacity, or skip health appointments to long-term health detriments. Part of employing humans means those people will be unavailable to work for reasons beyond their control on occasion and when your employer is flexible about it, it makes you as an employee more likely to stay in that role. Part of why I left my last job was that I burned through all my sick time with one bout of Covid and then had to work through smaller illnesses. It left me feeling like my overall contributions weren’t valued, just time in chair, and so I left (and it was a very specialized role, and they’ve had a lot of issues backfilling it).
      I get that there’s work that needs to be picked up – but that work would also need to be picked up if the person quit, or developed a long-term illness, went on parental leave, etc etc – it sounds like there needs to be more of a focus on cross-training and prioritization for coverage when staff are out.
      My current role has unlimited sick time, and while I’m sure occasional bad actors abuse it, the majority of people value the flexibility and there’s a lot of long-term tenure (15+ years) employees. If you’re out for longer than 2 consecutive weeks you need to go on short-term disability (and then LTD after that). My team is very understanding when people are out for illness and willing to pick up the slack – I think the overall culture of “health is important” leads to a culture where there’s no animosity for people taking sick time.

    13. Beth*

      Offering enough sick time that most people don’t go over it is the ideal here.

      When someone does go over (which will eventually happen with anything short of unlimited leave–chronic illness happens, acute illness that takes a lot of time to resolve happens, people have kids who get sick, etc)–draw from PTO, then take the time unpaid.

      Do you (or your state) offer short term disability? That’s not necessarily going to be applicable for someone who, say, is out twice a month because their kid has a fever and can’t go to daycare…but it is going to help cover someone who gets a serious injury and is out for 4 weeks straight for surgery and recovery.

    14. Parenthesis Guy*

      “5.) I see the consensus is that I don’t offer enough sick time, but I guess some of my questions missed my point – any amount of sick time what do people do when you go over? Not pay them? Allow them to take next years?”

      I think that the answer to this question can vary significantly based on your environment. Some people work in an environment where they could do their work theoretically whenever they wanted. In contrast, other people like preschool teachers are only able to work on site and during business hours (with exceptions for lesson planning).

      Presuming your environment is closer to that of a preschool then your options are limited. Most people would dock pay in a situation where someone took too many sick days. I think that your best bet is to keep things fluid. If you have a superstar employee that does a great job but gets sick for a week, maybe you don’t dock their pay. If you have a mediocre employee that’s missed three weeks from sickness, then maybe you do.

    15. Aitch Arr*

      Are your employees exempt or non-exempt?

      MA (like CA) has many complex and employee-friendly labor laws that are not easy to navigate.

      I’ll echo the recommendation above to outsource HR or hire an HR Generalist, especially as you get closer to the minimum number of employees for many of MA’s employment laws.

      At the very least, if you plan to pivot to full-time HR responsibilities, you should join NEHRA and/or SHRM and avail yourself of their resources. Your company should also look into retaining legal counsel familiar with MA labor laws.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Source – in case it’s needed – I’ve been in HR for ~25 years in the Boston area. I’m now a Global HR Director.

  45. Charley*

    LW1: While I’m glad you’re asking, I think your question answers itself. If you notice a pattern of reliable employees running out of sick time, then yes, you have either too little sick time, an accrual policy that’s not working well, or both.

    1. LW#1*

      Thanks- It’s never been a problem with my reliable employees. These are two brand new employees who have never had full time office jobs before. They are new grads. That is def part of my thought process.

      1. BG*

        As mentioned above, it doesn’t take many sick days for a new employee to end up in the red. I would also encourage you not to base your impressions on the reliability of an employee on the number of sick days they have or have not taken.

        1. LW#1*

          A valid point. I guess I’m saying the jury is out on these new employees for more than one reason and also I feel like I’m teaching them as they are new grads. I get from everyone else I don’t offer enough time.

          1. tg33*

            If your employees are bewly graduated, they may be decompressing from the stress of their final year and they’re bodies are expressing this by getting sick. Or they may be dealing with being newly employed by getting regular checkups etc. that they had been putting off.

            1. Era*

              Good point, especially with the regular checkups! You don’t mention if you also offer health insurance, but I’ve definitely taken time toward the beginning of my last couple of jobs to catch up on health appointments.

            2. JustaTech*

              Also, moving to a new job with a whole new group of people is a recipe for getting sick – just like the beginning of the school year. New people = new germs. So they are likely getting sick *because* they are new.

          2. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

            Thanks for being active in the comments and clarifying! And for being open to the idea that you should increase the offering.

          3. Observer*

            also I feel like I’m teaching them as they are new grads

            Well, *please* be careful with the message you send them. What you do NOT want to teach them is that taking sick time is a sign of an unreliable employee.

            I don’t really understand why you are even factoring this in to your evaluation of these employees. I believe you that they may have other issues, but you yourself admit that their reasons are not “out of line.” Also, why do you use the term “excuses”? That sounds like you think that they are trying to do something nefarious and getting you to excuse it. Either these are legitimate reasons, or they aren’t. According to you, they are actually legitimate reasons. So do everyone (including yourself) the negative language.

      2. JustKnope*

        I don’t think it should be part of your thought process. You need fair policies for everyone, whether they’re a new grad or not. Next year your “reliable” employees might end up getting a bad stomach flu and going into the red after the first month of the year too. Reasonable sick leave use is not “unreliable.”

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        In my experience, new grads are generally very reluctant to take time off, feeling that it will “look bad” and the boss will “think they are faking.” So I would say that taking time off that early probably means they really needed it.

  46. Garlic Microwaver*

    Letter 1:

    Accrual systems should be banned. The company is basically saying- we don’t trust you enough to treat you like adults.

    1. Anon in Canada*

      The idea is that since there is nothing to stop you from quitting any time, you should only be taking the leave that you are entitled to for the months/pay periods that you actually worked; for example (numbers just for easy calculation’s sake) if you get 12 vacation days a year, that’s one day a month; so if you quit after only 6 months there and you took 9 days off, you took days that you weren’t entitled to.

      In such a situation, either the employer would disallow the employee from taking the leave altogether until it was accrued, or would require that it be taken unpaid, or would allow a negative balance that would have to be paid back upon quitting.

      A legitimate case can be made for such a system to govern vacation days. Using it for sick days, though, makes zero sense. You can’t control when you get sick. Making someone pay back a negative sick day balance because they were sick in the first few months of a job is nonsense.

  47. Anon in Canada*

    OP1 – 5 days a year of sick leave is not enough, I think everyone here agrees with that. Offer 10 days and front-load it; sick leave should not be “accrued”.

    However, there’s another huge problem with your leave policy. You offer extremely bare-bones vacation time; which you probably say is no big deal “because you offer 13 holidays”. This is not at all inclusive towards people who live far away from their families. Depending on the distances involved, a 3 day weekend may not be enough for someone to visit their family; long distances may require a full week. Therefore, for such a person, holidays are essentially useless; vacation is what matters, and your policy condemns them to only seeing their family at most twice a year until they reach your vacation jump. (Newsflash: life doesn’t care that you’re new to a job, and making someone wait that long to see their family regularly “just because they changed jobs” is cruel.) If you’re not willing to increase the total number of days off, I would recommend dropping to 8 holidays and increasing to 3 weeks vacation time. People who want to take time off on holidays can still do so.

  48. CommanderBanana*

    LW1, you don’t offer enough sick leave. And, I don’t really understand the accrual of sick leave versus starting a job with a sick leave bank (yes, I know most places do sick leave on an accrual system). The whole point of sick leave is that you can’t control when you get sick! Saying that you offer holidays off and that should impact how much sick leave employees take doesn’t make sense. It’s not like the flu waits around for MLK Day or Veterans Day or whatever before striking.

  49. NotAManager*

    I’ve been informed by Britain’s QI that the appropriate response to “How do you do?” is “How do you do?” and I kind of love that because it avoids a generic ‘Fine,’ or the oversharing that can come with, ‘How are you?’ Inquiring into someone’s well-being fully knowing that neither of you are obliged to actually answer the question is great.

    1. Heather*

      Do you get oversharing in response to “How are you”? I feel like “Good-thanks-how-are-you” is just as set a response as “how do you do”.

  50. Lizzy*

    I worked for a company that offered two weeks vacation and five sick days—that you could not roll over or bank.
    As a result I got sicker than I ever have because no one wants to use up all their sick days in Jan/Feb and so people came to work spewing virus everywhere. One of them took me out for ten days one February, using up all my sick time/half of my PTO.
    When I had Covid, I worked through it (from home) because I needed to save my five days for surgery later in the year.
    I left that company and now work for one that offers 12 days of sick time a year and you can bank them/roll them over year to year.

    1. Alan*

      For LW #1, please also factor in how important staff stability is to you. My own employer has something of a revolving door in some departments, with people coming in and training, hating the working conditions, and then moving as trained people to better-paying jobs. That’s a business decision my employer makes. Just know that you’re making that decision implicitly when you save money on benefits.

  51. Ex-prof*

    LW #2 sounds like the guy faked his resume, doesn’t it? Reminds me of the letter about where one guy was interviewed and a different guy showed up for work.

    I mean, it’s hard to imagine how one could get a PhD without learning to copy and paste.

    1. WorkerAlias*

      I was technical lead at my last job, and they hadn’t managed to find my replacement before I left (with three months’ notice). They eventually hired someone who claimed to have worked at a very big name tech firm as a technical lead… and then had to fire them when it turned out this person had zero technical knowledge and did, indeed, have trouble with basic things like copy and paste. My old coworkers kept me updated on the situation and it sounded like it caused a lot of drama. One of my junior developers who had to train the new tech lead in our systems told me it was like talking his elderly parents through using their tv remote, just totally painful.

    2. I Have RBF*

      I actually worked with a guy whose resume was fake. Nice guy, didn’t know squat about his job, but could do some stuff in a clicky-clicky Windows based tool. The job was Linux sysadmin. They found out about the fake resume when they did the background check to bring him permanent. But he could copy and paste.

  52. Whyamihere*

    You all get sick leave? We get a couple floating holidays but they always take our 2 weeks PTO first and we get a point if we don’t bring a doctors note.

    1. Observer*

      we get a point if we don’t bring a doctors note.

      There has been some significant pushback on this in many areas. There are a number of localities where it is now illegal to require a doctor’s note for sick time of less than 3 days.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      omgoodness – i hope you are job searching if you are able. but i know life circumstances mean far too many people have to work for crappy employers – so if you fall into that category i’m really sorry companies are allowed to treat people like shit.

      1. Whyamihere*

        I am getting there. They pay pretty okay and it is close to my house. We have some promising changes with a new VP coming in but I am definitely getting my resume together

  53. Punk*

    LW2: Is there a reason this guy can’t still be trained? Just because he has a PhD doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to still be taught operations, procedures, and systems? When he starts interviewing elsewhere, he’ll say, “Yeah, my supervisor admitted that he never trained me, but instead of acting like the manager he should have been, he knowingly let me fail and allowed me to disrupt operations instead of simply training me.”

    Seriously, they have a qualified employee that everyone knows is being underserved, and no one thinks its their job to teach him his role?

    1. Hrodvitnir*


      My partner found himself spending 3-4 hours every few days helping this new engineer get up to speed. . . After two years, he is still not up to speed, despite my partner spending a great deal of time and effort training him.

  54. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW #2 – I agree that LW needs to let the employee fail. The employee will either learn to swim or sink when guardrails are taken away. Address how to handle the anticipated fallout with the boss/grandboss so that there’s a plan that everyone agrees to.

    But also, it’s been 2 years and even their manager agrees this person is not good. Can the company not put this person on a PIP? I don’t agree that the only way the company can take action is to let the person fail.

  55. THAT girl*

    My midwestern grandmother who was born in the 20s was the only person I can recall saying it and it was her standard greeting. Have lived in the south for 30 years (after growing up in the midwest) and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it here.

  56. Mim*

    5 days of sick leave means that anyone over the age of 45 who is getting proper preventative healthcare is using 40% of their annual sick leave on colonoscopy + prep day. (Or only 20% if you are cool with them working from the bathroom on their prep day…)

    Add up the time needed for annual physicals, 2 dental cleanings, optometrist, mammogram, annual gyn exam, consider that many folks are parents or caregivers for people who need to be brought to many of these same appts, and also consider that anyone with any type of chronic condition or disability will likely have other regular appointments.

    Also consider how many more days off folks will need if people are coming to work sick (for lack of sick days) and spreading their germs. And think about whether someone who is feeling sick is able to do their work efficiently or well at all.

    Please, PLEASE provide your employees with the ability to take a humane amount of PTO so they can take care of their bodies and minds. Obviously, that average of 8 days is not sufficient, either. It’s ridiculous that we are expected, collectively, to choose between our literal health and a paycheck.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        not annual but it is recommended that everyone over a certain age gets a colonoscopy and I belive that it is considered preventative by insurance.

  57. LCH*

    The last time I only had 5 sick days per year, I never went to the dr because I had no time to do so. Had to save them for when I felt bad (and who really gets same day dr appts? Except walk in clinics, I guess). And could only go to dentists with Saturday hours (hard to find!) so, yeah, this situation sucks.

  58. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    LW1, sick leave:

    This might have been covered already, and if so I apologize (there were a LOT of comments to weed through!) but a few things to consider with your sick/vacation policy in addition to increasing sick leave:

    – If you’re going to offer 10 days a year (and I think you should), allow people to accrue up to a certain level. I saw you said you were in MA so people have access to paid leave by law, but assuming it is like NY’s policy, it’s probably not at full pay. Allowing people to accrue it will not only allow for them to have a bank if they need it for something, but will also help fend off the “but I am never sick” naysayers (who just come to work sick and infect the rest of us).
    – Speaking of those naysayers, I don’t know if the roles in your company would allow for something like this, but if it is at all feasible, allow employees the option to work remotely if they are sick (but “well enough”) so they aren’t encouraged to spread germs around the office. Same goes for a feverish kid sent home from school/daycare (this may require taking SOME leave that day, but in all likelihood they would still be able to work a partial/close to full day if the child is sick in bed and resting)
    – (This wasn’t specifically addressed, but worth addressing) – for vacation leave, allowing some carryover as well is a good idea. Most people who are starting new jobs are likely to limit their vacation asks in the first year or so (if they don’t already have planned trips, that is), so this will go a long way in allowing them to pad their leave on the earlier end. I’d probably advocate for you increasing vacation leave in general (if you want to attract talented mid-career employees, you may need to!), but even allowing for carryover and/or an increase in days after the first year is a good start.

  59. weever*

    #2: Even with everything else: your husband should go job hunting.

    Even if this is best case scenario where everything fails and the company blames the correct person, your spouse has soured on this job. You don’t really come back from the kind of morale hit that he’s had. He needs to take several steps back, stop being so emotionally invested, and probably take a vacation, too, if you can afford it.

    Sometimes jobs are great and then they stop being great and it’s time to move on. There are better jobs out there.

    Leave this company with the bed they made, and get another job where you don’t have to deal with this mess. You can’t manage without management power; this is a headache waiting to drop an anvil on your family.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      If this is a large corporation, they might be able to stay within the company and keep their benefits, tenure, etc. I’d look internal first, especially since you can normally sniff out the better divisions easier.

  60. ZugTheMegasaurus*

    My standard is “good to see you” because it covers up the many times I don’t remember whether I’ve met someone before.

  61. Ms. Murchison*

    I wonder if LW1 is one of those people who just never gets sick. That’s the only reason I can think of that they’d point to holidays to justifying not giving enough sick leave to cover a bout of the flu and normal annual medical appointments. You can’t get an annual exam or your teeth cleaned on a national holiday, LW1, and the flu usually isn’t considerate of your work schedule. Before I started getting the flu shot, it knocked me out for two solid weeks every winter.

  62. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP#2. Your partner kicking in to save the day is the reason the managers are having trouble firing the incompetent employee. They have no ‘evidence’ other than a complaint from your partner. The same thing goes for salaried workers who work excessive overtime and then wonder why management isn’t hiring more people. They don’t need to — you are doing all the extra work for them for free!

    A co-worker once taught me you need to ‘share the pain’. Stop covering for a teammate. Your partner is not the people manager, so stop trying to manage this person. Let the managers do it. By letting them take the heat for a failed project/deadline/product. Partner should send an email in writing stating that they are no longer covering for so-and-so as this is resulting in a loss of your own productivity and work quality. This gives management written evidence that you are not causing the failed deadline – you are focused on your own work.

  63. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP#1 – ask yourself this. Would you rather a sick employee come into work, hack and cough all over their teammates, and then the entire office is out with the flu? Or would you rather that sick person stay home and the rest of the office stays healthy?

    I’ve watched this happen too many times, especially in small offices or open cube farms. One sick employee can get 10-20 other people sick. Pay your employees to stay home as this ensures they won’t be tempted to get the other 20 people sick too.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I have had companies try to tell me I have a “bad attitude” when I complain about being exposed to sick coworkers. I loathe it when people come in sick and infect me, I take time off, and then the employer accuses me of taking “too much” time off sick.

      If they a) had adequate sick time, and b) made people who were sick and contagious stay home, the overall count of sick days taken and productivity reduction would actually drop because of reduced viral spread.

  64. Sally Rhubarb*

    (The average for full-time positions in the U.S. is eight sick days a year.)

    Not one of my jobs has ever offered sick pay.

    That being said, sick days should be front loaded. Not earning them, given them.

  65. AG*

    #2: Someone brought up that LW might end up as a scapegoat, and should cover their own behind. I want to point that response out to make sure LW sees it.

    My own take: That engineer has failed already, a long time ago. An engineer with a PhD is expected to figure things out on their own -that’s basically why they are better paid etc. For another employee I would put more weight on the inadequate training, etc; but after this long, if your PhD level engineer is still not up to speed with how your tech works… They don’t fit what is expected of a PhD engineer.

  66. ThisIshRightHere*

    Not gonna lie, I say “how do you do?” as a greeting nearly every time I meet someone new. I have noticed that it’s not common, but I’ve never had anyone react strangely to it. For me, it accompanies a handshake, so if the introduction doesn’t warrant a handshake (such as when joining a kickball game already in progress or being introduced to the friends of my minor children) the introductory greeting is instead “hi, how are you?” or the even more casual, “hey, how ya doin?”

  67. Lusara*

    LW1 – why not just have unlimited sick days? Then you don’t need to worry about people accruing it or going negative. If someone seems to be abusing it, then you can address it with them. But good employees won’t.

    1. Mothman*

      As someone with chronic illnesses that don’t affect my ability to do my job well but can affect when I’m able to work, this is absolutely necessary. This is especially true if hours aren’t flexible like (thankfully!) mine are.

      I would literally, no exaggeration, be dead right now if my work wasn’t cool with me taking the time I need to go to appointments, which resulted in a surprise but life-saving surgery. My actual CEO’s attitude was “you’re more important than what we do here!”

      I was at another job where I was almost hospitalized after not getting adequate medical care because of sick day penalties. I was only not hospitalized because, survey says, I felt like I couldn’t miss that much work. (Ironically, I was sick because of an unsanitary work environment…)

  68. Mothman*

    I’m always baffled by the idea of earning sick days when they’re separate from PTO. You can’t help when you get sick, and that kind of thing dissuades people from taking time away when they’re ill, making necessary doctor’s appointments, or keeping sick kids home from school.

    I mean, sure, make vacation earned, but have sick days available on day one if you have to keep them separate.

  69. L.H. Puttgrass*

    I’m surprised no one has commented about LW2’s partner being told “he’s ‘too critical’ to move.” That seems like a rather large red flag to start looking for a new job. If you’re “too critical” to move, you’re “too critical” to promote, either. I guess that’s fine if he’s happy in his job and never wants to do anything else, but it’s kind of toxic for a workplace to say that an employee can’t do anything else because they’re too critical to the job their doing.

    (And what if LW’2s partner does leave? I assume the job will get done somehow, right?)

  70. Dezzi*

    LW1: Five sick days (that have to be earned over the course of a year!) essentially means you have a policy of not employing anyone with a disability/chronic illness, anyone even thinking about getting pregnant, anyone who already has a child/children, or anyone who has any type of family caregiving responsibilities. Which, if you think about it, is…not a good stance to take!

  71. Sarah*

    #1. Your leave policy is definitely not going to help you win talent. My first job out of college in a very traditional company had better leave. Now mid-career, I would never even bother applying to a job with this leave policy.

  72. Raida*

    2. Working with a bad employee who you’ve been told to let fail

    Take it from me – suddenly spending your day doing actual work and not going over a trainee’s work, answering questions, etc is not only far more enjoyable workday – but it’s overall a greater output from the team.
    Currently he’s got 50% of his normal time, and then the other 50% is spent not doing his job – so the business is paying full-time for half-time output.
    On top of that the 50% spent with the co-worker is doing that other fella’s work – so the business is paying full time there as well… to actually eat into another salary to get the results!

    Currently his setup is: Business pays one person = get half their work, pay for 1.5 people to get one person’s work.

    It’s not good for anyone, except maybe the dude who hasn’t been performance managed. If he’s the manager, this is realistically on him. If he’s not, the manager is truly at fault here for not paying attention to outputs, getting training updates, having catchups with their staff, and not performance managing the new guy

  73. Coco*

    LW #1: I agree with the other folks that you need to provide more sick days and front load. But I want to address your other question “I struggle what to do about pay with them both being in the negative.” Assuming these are hourly non exempt jobs… for anyone who has exceeded their allotment of paid sick time, you can require them to take the time unpaid. But if you offer more sick time and front load it, the ideal is that you don’t get to the point of people taking unpaid time off.

  74. Anonymous For Now*

    I have OCGD (Obsessive Compulsive Grammar Disorder) and yes that is a completely made up syndrome.

    Please keep in mind that it is either less sick time or fewer sick days. “Less” does not go with “days”.

    The way I remember it is, “Less rain; fewer raindrops”.

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